Confronting the lie

Confronting the lie – “God will never give you more than you can handle!”

One of the things that is commonly said to “encourage” people who are going through difficult circumstances is: “God will never give you more than you can bear.”

“Everything will be alright; God wouldn’t have given you this trial if He didn’t think you could handle it.”

It’s a sweet sentiment – people who say it honestly do care and are concerned about the person they are speaking to – but it simply isn’t true!

There is no verse in the Bible that says “God will never give you more than you can handle/bear.”  There is one that sounds like that, but 1 Corinthians 10:13 doesn’t really say what people thinks it says:

1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” NIV

Paul says that God will not allow you to be tempted by something you can’t resist, to be overwhelmed by Satan’s temptation to commit sin.

That is a far different thing from claiming that you will not have to bear a burden that you cannot bear. That idea just isn’t Biblical.  If anything the exact opposite is true.

1 Corinthians 10:13 actually teaches that even in temptation, there will be times we find ourselves in situations we can’t handle and that in those times the only way out is through Him.

There are many trials that can overwhelm us, shake us to our core to the point where we wonder how we could ever possibly survive it!

Kayla Lemmon, January 5, 2014: “I lost my Dad to cancer last month – it was absolutely horrific. Every day leading up to his death was like walking through every level of hell – slowly – for lack of a better term. There’s no other way to describe it. The images – the sounds – the sleepless nights – the cries for God while we look on, helpless – the torment of rubbing morphine in his cheeks, praying it’ll absorb – but to no avail. The horrible, wrenching pain that came with lifting him up, laying him back down, lifting him up, laying him back down – because he became so restless and cried out for “home” every few minutes. And all along, in the back of my mind, I reminded myself that millions of people go through this, and have already gone through this, very thing. And it is simply unbearable. If you disagree – it’s because you haven’t been there. This trial was so consuming that I hate to even put it in the past tense – sometimes it still consumes me. Yesterday, at my Dad’s memorial service, it consumed me all over again. I’ve suffered from nightmares where I relived the memory over and over mercilessly – I sometimes see his face on strangers that pass and worry that I’m going crazy. I cry over sad songs in the car and torture myself with stacks of pictures and yellowed photo albums. It’s beyond just missing him. And even with a firm testimony of the gospel and with peace that he is exactly where the Lord prepared him for, it is still too much for me to handle at times. It steals my breath–and it can steal my joy. So, the other day, I turned to the scriptures. I needed help.”

“I wanted to know where that phrase was that people kept repeating to me in church and at work and over the phone. Why did the Lord “trust me so much?” Why did He think I could handle these kinds of trials?”

“And then I realized: I couldn’t find that quote because it isn’t there.”

“It never mentions anywhere in the scriptures that the Lord won’t give you more than you can handle. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says God gives us an escape from temptations so that it’s not too much to bear. But when it comes to pain, trials, heartache, and burdens – not once does it say it won’t be more than we can bear. Instead, it says this:

Matthew 11:28-30: “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens (heavy laden), and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” NLT

“Christ is speaking to those of us who are carrying burdens much too heavy for our own shoulders. In this one verse He tells us why God allows us more than we can handle – so we will come to Jesus – so we can trust Him enough to hand over our heavy, crippling burdens and let Him carry the load.”

“I suppose it’s because of pride that I always thought I could just do things on my own. I’m strong, I’d say. I’m a tough cookie. I can help others through their tribulations while carrying mine all by myself. I was wrong!”

“I’ve come to learn – slowly but surely – why I need Him. I didn’t really know what needing Him meant until I had no other choice. I didn’t know what it meant until I wrapped my arms around my middle so I wouldn’t fall apart – or the time I choked on tears and yelled toward Heaven. Or the times when I was utterly alone, and the silence was too much to bear.”

“Those are the times that taught me that Jesus is not just a convenient symbol of love! No, he’s the very air we breathe. And He’s the only one who can make it bearable when life is simply unbearable!”

In addition to that quote not being in the Bible, we can find plenty of quotes that mean the exact opposite that are in the Bible! Throughout scripture, we encounter people overwhelmed by what is happening to them, such as Job and David:

Job 3:11 – “Why wasn’t I born dead? Why didn’t I die as I came from the womb?” NLT

Job 6:1-3: “Then Job spoke again: “If my misery could be weighed and my troubles be put on the scales, they would outweigh all the sands of the sea.” NLT

Job 7:11 – “I cannot keep from speaking. I must express my anguish. My bitter soul must complain.” NLT

Job 7:15-16: “I would rather be strangled— rather die than suffer like this. I hate my life and don’t want to go on living. Oh, leave me alone for my few remaining days.” NLT

Job 10:1-2: “I am disgusted with my life. Let me complain freely. My bitter soul must complain. I will say to God, ‘Don’t simply condemn me—tell me the charge you are bringing against me.” NLT

Job 10:18 – “Why, then, did you deliver me from my mother’s womb? Why didn’t you let me die at birth?” NLT

Job 14:1 – “How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble!” NLT

Psalm 38:4 – “My guilt overwhelms me – it is a burden too heavy to bear.” NLT

Psalm 38:8 – “I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart.” NLT

Elijah was told by an angel: 1 Kings 19:7 – “…Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” NIV

That is quite different from saying “God didn’t give us any burdens we couldn’t bear.”

Donald Grey Barnhouse – “If God wants you to trust Him, He puts you in a place of difficulty. If He wants you to trust Him greatly, He puts you in a place of impossibility. For when a thing is impossible, then we who are so prone to move things by the force of our own being can say, “Lord, it has to be You. I am utterly, absolutely nothing.”

“I might add that until we reach this point we are going to continue feeling disappointed and rejected because of our continued failures. May He help us to put our complete trust in Him!” 

That is precisely the point that Paul makes in this passage:

2 Corinthians 1:8-9: “We want you to know, Christian brothers, of the trouble we had in the countries of Asia. The load was so heavy we did not have the strength to keep going. At times we did not think we could live. We thought we would die. This happened so we would not put our trust in ourselves, but in God Who raises the dead.” NLV

Notice what Paul is saying – “We thought we were finished – dead!”  We knew we couldn’t handle our trouble – it was beyond our strength.  This happened so we would not trust in ourselves but in God.

Later, Paul will write it is when he is weak that the strength of Christ is seen: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10: “…So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” NLT

In other words, when we can’t do it any longer!  When we are fed up!  When it has become too much!  When we have nothing left.  When we are empty!  When it is beyond our capability to deal with it!  Then, in that moment, the strength of the God of resurrection will be seen.  What Paul reminds us of is that our trials and sufferings are not a measure of how much we can bear.  We may often encounter sufferings that are more than we can handle. However, it’s not about us – it’s always about God!

Realizing the simple fact that God can and will give us more than we can possibly bear, actually makes it easier to understand – it makes more sense that way.

Until we get to that point, we rely on ourselves thinking we can handle it and take care of the problem – we think wrong!

And don’t forget Jesus:  Matthew 27:46 – “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” NKJV

We forget sometimes that Jesus suffered an unbearable burden on the cross – pain, humiliation, injustice, violence – death! Maybe part of the problem is that to us, the cross is just a pretty shape that’s easy to draw!  But the cross was an instrument of torture, death, and injustice – a method of death where the victim’s own diaphragm collapses and the person suffocates to death; his body literally unable to bear its own burden.

The cross reminds us not only of the brokenness of the world – it also reminds us that in those times of suffering and pain, we are not alone.  God stands with us in the suffering – He is in it with us!  God’s intent in allowing suffering is never to push us away from Him but to always pull us into a closer relationship with Him. Hebrews 2:18 – “Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.” NLT

Even though it’s not true, many Christians today actually believe this – “If God never gives us more than we can bear, and I am being crushed under my burdens, then what is wrong with me?  What am I doing wrong?  Why isn’t God helping me? I must be a failure, a bad Christian!”

One person said: “I have been having a very hard time and feeling like a failure as a Christian because I felt like I am not strong enough. I lost my sister to cancer and then my baby sister in a wreck and this June I lost my oldest child and everyone kept saying God would not put more on me than I could bear.”

It is cruel and harmful to tell a person that “God will never give you more than you can bear.”

Could you imagine saying to an inmate at Auschwitz, “Don’t worry; God never gives you more than you can bear!”

Or a woman whose children are killed by a long buried landmine while they were playing; or a refugee who survived the massacre of her entire village; or someone who has just been given a diagnosis of a terminal illness; or someone overwhelmed by grief and loss; or a man who lost his wife and child in a car accident; or a girl whose innocence was robbed from her when she was molested as a child; or the person crushed under the weight of depression, anxiety, debt or other afflictions; or the parent who just learned they have a terminal illness and they still have young children; or the person struggling with grief from the loss of a long time spouse!

There are all kinds of things that happen that we cannot bear.  Sometimes our lives come crashing down around us. We know this from experience; we know this from the Bible:

Romans 5:3-4: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” NLT

James 1:2-4: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” NLT

1 Peter 4:12-13: “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” NLT

1 Peter 5:8-11: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” NKJV

Sentimental Christianity is useless when we are going through our fiery trials – I certainly have no answer.  But we know God does, so we cry out to Him for help! When we are going through the fires of pain and hurt, we pray to God hoping He will do something, we expect Him to do something – we don’t know what, or when, but we expect God to heal us, to restore us, to change the situation, to do something!

Sometimes the answer and/or relief doesn’t come like we want it too, so we ask these types of questions of God: Why? Why not step in? Why not act? Why wouldn’t you make it right? Why couldn’t you part the clouds and provide a moment for us to catch our breath? Why everything at once? Why?

Asking those questions requires courage because, in the end, it is very unlikely they will be answered.

It has been said that the real pain of suffering is not the actual hurt and pain that we go through – martyrs have proven that physical suffering can be endured.  The real pain is that it seems that God is not listening and seeing what is going on.

We ask, Where is God – why is He avoiding us – why won’t He answer?  C.S. Lewis asked this question in his book called ‘A Grief Observed’ (as he watched his wife struggle and die with cancer) – “Meanwhile, where is God?  This is one of the most disquieting symptoms.  When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, if you turn to Him then with praise, you will be welcomed with open arms.  But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain and what do you find?  A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside.  After that, silence.  You may as well turn away!”

It may seem like God is not answering, but He is: Psalm 34:17-19: “The Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed. The righteous person faces many troubles, but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.” NLT

He never leaves us, He never forsakes us, He is right here with us all the time, regardless of what we are going through!

1 John 5:4 – “…And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” NKJV

Faith is a lifelong journey of facing the struggles of the world and moving forward with hope.  However, our faithfulness is not demonstrated by how easily we are able to bear the burdens that come our way.  Our faith is demonstrated by our recognition that we “cannot bear the loads of life unaided” – we cannot bear the burdens ourselves – we must trust in the Lord Who bears them with us.

Our problems do not magically disappear because we have become followers of Christ (they may increase)! However, we are promised that in those sufferings we are not alone. God does allow us to suffer things we cannot bear – alone!  But we do not have to bear them alone!

Isaiah 43:1-3: “…Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” NLT

When people tell me that “God won’t give you more than you can handle,” this is what I say, “I’m sorry, but I know for a fact that He DOES give me more than I can handle! However, He has never given me more than HE can handle.”

Jeremiah 32:17 – “Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” NKJV

So long as the Church exists, so long as the faithful gather in a community to pray, to worship, to reflect, no one has to bear their burdens alone. The church is not an “everyone-lift-yourself-up-by-your-spiritual-bootstraps community.”  It is not one that says that the Lord helps those who help themselves or that God never gives you more than you can bear.

The church is a place where you can come and say, “I have a burden that I cannot bear” and instead of being judged for having a weak faith, you are surrounded by a network of love and support that will bear that burden with you.

Galatians 6:2-3: “Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.” NLT

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The broad way

Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small (narrow) and the way is narrow (difficult) that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” NASB

The broad way leads to “destruction.” The word translated “destroy” or “destruction” means “to utterly destroy, to ruin.” This word does not mean “extinction,” but “a loss of all that gives value and worth to human existence – not of being, but of well-being – eternal misery!

Solomon wrote: Proverbs 14:12 – “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” NLT

If you follow the broad path you will be eternally separated from God: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9: “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day…”  NKJV

What does “everlasting destruction” mean? Picture this in your mind? Coming from every direction are the sounds of a massive, roaring, blazing fire, but you can’t see anything because it’s completely dark. All around you are the sounds of anguish, sounds of untold billions of people screaming and crying out in pain!

These people seem to be in the process of being cut up into thousands of pieces. Where are they?  The place the Bible calls “hell” – the burning lake of fire, where people will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The Bible describes hell as the most horrifying place imaginable, so horrific it is beyond our ability to comprehend, so dreadful it brings tears to my eyes to even preach about it!

According to the Bible, hell is a miserable place of great suffering, intense agony and torment.  It is a brutal place of horror, pain, grief, punishment and tears.

Hell is an awful place of choking, stinking sulfuric fumes; a burning, churning sea of fire where all you can hear are people screaming and crying, because their bodies are rolling in flames of liquid fire.

Hell is a terrible place of darkness, disorientation, dread, torment and unbelievable pain; a lake which burns with fire and brimstone; a place of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth; a place where the soul will be violently tormented, continually, ceaselessly, eternally! Hell is ugly, ugly, ugly!

Hell is a place of eternal anguish and misery; a place of eternal burning; a place of eternal darkness; a place without rest, comfort, peace or hope!

Hell will be a Godless, Christ-less place filled with lost souls condemned to an eternity of fiery darkness, pain, misery and regret – filled with people who will say for all of eternity – “I don’t want to be here, I wish I would have listened, I wish I could have just one more chance.”

“People in hell will be tormented by the thoughts of neglected opportunities: ‘If I had obeyed the gospel; if I had listened to the pleading of my wife; if I had gone forward that night! You will not be dead five seconds until you would give ten million worlds like this one for an opportunity to become a Christian.” Jimmy Allen

The thought that God will punish forever those who have not obeyed Him in a place like this is horrifying, but that is exactly what the Bible teaches: Revelations 20:15 – “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”  NKJV

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Dealing with our guilt

Matthew 5:8 “Happy are the pure in heart; they will see God.” GNT

A pure heart is one that is free and clean of impurities. It is a heart free of all the junk that weighs us down, washed clean of all the hurts, hang-ups, and habits that plague our lives. Those who are truly pure in heart aren’t afraid of their pasts.

In order to have a pure heart, we must bring our painful past out in the open so we can deal with it, be cleansed of it, and then move on to health and happiness. This may be a scary step for some, but it’s a necessary step that separates those who just want to talk about getting healthy from those who really want to get healthy!

1) The negative effects of guilt

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, writer of the Sherlock Holmes novels, was quite a prankster.  One day he played a prank on five of the most prominent men in England. He sent an anonymous note to them that said: “All is found out, flee at once.” Within 24 hours all five men had left the country.

There are many people in this world like these five men who have real problems with guilt. Many Christians today (maybe one of you) are obsessed by the memory of some sin (s) they committed years ago.  The memory never leaves them; it haunts them and hurts their devotional life and their relationships with each other. They live in fear that someone will find out what they did, so they work overtime to prove to God that they are truly repentant – and they are miserable!

We all sin!  When you sin, what do you do with your failures, mistakes, and pride, etc.  One thing is for sure, if you could do it all over again, you’d do things differently, you’d be a different person, you’d resist the temptation, but you can’t.

You may have told yourself many times, “What’s done is done,” but what you did can’t be undone, and cannot be forgotten!

I am guilty of this myself.  In the past, I would really let my mistakes bother me, I would line them up and count them again and again and again!  I would take my good and stack it up against my bad and hope that I was good enough to make it to heaven. I would ask God to forgive me for the same sin I had already confessed – ten, twenty, thirty years ago!

The truth is, none of us are faultless. We all have sins, we’ve all made mistakes. So we all have regrets. We all have remorse. We all have things we wish we could turn back the clock on and say, “I wish I would have done that differently!” But we can’t.

So we feel bad about it, feel guilty about it, and we carry it with us, sometimes consciously, but most of the time unconsciously. We may deny or repress the guilt. We may blame other people for our guilt. We may excuse our guilt. We may rationalize our guilt. But we still feel the effects of it. If our guilt is not dealt with, it will destroy us like a cancer!

A young man called in to one of those call-in radio talk shows hosted by a psychologist and said, “I’m consumed with guilt and don’t know what to do with it. How do I get rid of this guilt?” The answer offered by the talk-show host was very upsetting: “You can’t get rid of guilt. You just have to learn to live with it.”

Rationalizing our guilt is not the answer! We can say, “It’s okay, everybody’s doing it, it was a long time ago…” but in our hearts, we know what we did was wrong. That’s why we need relief “from” our guilt, because it can and will destroy us like a cancer!

David is a man who had to deal with guilt.  He had lived with his sins of adultery and lying and murder for almost a year, thinking no one knew about them.  When David tried to hide his sin, he was miserable.  His guilt was tearing him apart mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially.  David’s sin caused a terrible burden on him – his guilt became unbearable!

We may think that silence is the best course of action. But there is no real freedom without confession. Silence about our wrongdoing only makes the pain worse. David describes the depression, insomnia, and stress that can come when we keep silent about our wrongs:

Psalm 32:3-4: “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.”  NLT

Psalm 38:1-8: “O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage! Your arrows have struck deep, and your blows are crushing me. Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins. My guilt overwhelms me—it is a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and stink because of my foolish sins. I am bent over and racked with pain. All day long I walk around filled with grief. A raging fever burns within me, and my health is broken. I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart.” NLT

Psalm 38:17-18: “I am on the verge of collapse, facing constant pain. But I confess my sins; I am deeply sorry for what I have done.”  NLT

Psalm 31:9-10: “Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am in distress. Tears blur my eyes. My body and soul are withering away. I am dying from grief; my years are shortened by sadness. Sin has drained my strength; I am wasting away from within.”  NLT

There’s something about sin that’s chaotic, that messes us up deeply inside. That’s what David’s sin did to him, and that’s what it will do to you and me! Sin has a terrible effect that will spread through your whole personality.  It has a mental effect because the mind is stressed with guilt.

It also has a physical effect, because the state of the mind affects the state of the body. Guilt will wear your body down like you’ve been working in the summer heat and can literally make you physically sick.

I heard of a report where psychiatrists say that probably 70% of the people in the hospital could leave today if they knew how to resolve their guilt. “When I swallow my guilt my stomach keeps score.”

If we don’t talk it out with God and others, we will continue to take it out on ourselves and others.

Guilt also has a social effect, because nobody wants to hang around a person who is eaten up with guilt and feeling miserable and sorry for themselves all the time!

But the main effect of sin is the “destruction” it brings to our relationship with God. Sin separates us from God, erecting a barrier between God and us that only the blood of Jesus can break down:  Isaiah 59:2 – “It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” NLT

2) What guilt does to us

Guilt destroys our confidence!  You cannot be at peace with God and yourself if you have guilt in your life that is hanging over your head like a dark cloud. Carrying around your guilt is like carrying a heavy weight around your neck.

It makes you feel insecure because you’re always worried, “What if somebody finds out about that skeleton in my closet? If people really knew the truth about me, if they knew that deep dark secret that only I and God know about it, then they may not like me, they may reject me!”

Guilt damages our relationships!  Guilt sabotages our relationships by causing us to respond in harmful ways. We sometimes overreact out of impatience or anger towards other people, or we explode without reason because of some buried guilt. Have you ever seen somebody overreact in anger over something minor?  Often that’s motivated by guilt (King David and the rich man).

“People who are eaten up with guilt are the most unforgiving people you will ever know – they can’t stand for someone else to sin and will look for anything to attack someone else. When you find someone who only criticizes and attacks, you will find a person eaten up with guilt – they don’t understand God’s grace, can’t accept God’s grace, so they don’t give God’s grace!”

Guilt can also cause us to spoil and indulge people unwisely. Parents often feel guilty over poor choices they have made and overcompensate by indulging their children by buying them things.

Guilt can cause us to avoid commitment. We wonder why we won’t let people get close to us. We allow ourselves to get just so close but no closer. One of the main reasons is guilt.

Past relationships push their way into the present and taint the future. Many marriage problems are the result of guilt over things that happened prior to or early in the marriage.

Guilt keeps us stuck in the past! Luke 9:62 – “…No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” NKJV

Jesus says we cannot keep living in the past, yet that is exactly where some people are! They are being held prisoner by the guilt they feel over something they did in the past, and they are stuck! Guilt tries to keep us focused on what’s behind us by replaying over and over in our minds all the things from our past we wish we could change!

It’s like driving a car by always looking in the rearview mirror. A rearview mirror is helpful, because it gives us perspective. Looking at our past gives us perspective, too, but if we look only at our past, we never get to see the “present” or look forward to the “future.” Some people focus on the past to the extent that their rearview mirror gets bigger than their windshield. With this kind of driving, forward progress is nearly impossible – a crash is likely in the near future.

Spiritual growth is the process of “expanding” that windshield and “shrinking” the rearview mirror so you can get on with the present.

We need to learn from past mistakes, but we can’t allow them to control our lives in the present. Instead, we must get to the point where we say:I’m going to get on with my life. I want to get well. I want to grow. I want to let go of the past. I want to be able to close it. I want to bury the past.” You can’t bury it as long as it’s alive.

  • The Purpose of Guilt

Do you know and understand the God-given purpose of guilt? God uses guilt to correct us through His Spirit when we are wrong. That’s called conviction! And conviction hurts!

John 16:8 – “And when He comes, He will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” NLT

The proper response to guilt is repentance! Once we have made the decision to become a Christian and accept Christ’s perfect forgiveness and turn from our sins, as far as God is concerned, guilt’s purpose – to make us feel bad about what we did in the past – is finished.

But we like to hold on to our guilt and beat ourselves over the head – repeatedly – with it! That’s condemnation! But it’s not from God; it’s from the devil and ourselves.

Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” NKJV

If we are to ever recover from the hurts, hang-ups, and habits in our lives and know the joy of a pure heart, we’ll have to learn how to let go of our guilt and shame!

If you want to change your life, if you want to get well, if you want to grow and let go of your past guilt once and for all, you have to come clean with God:

Psalm 32:1 “What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven. What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.” TLB

The steps described in the next section will help you move past your guilt. While the process is fairly simple; it isn’t easy to actually do – it can be scary, and it requires a lot of courage. But it is very important – the results will change your life forever

3) How to deal with guilt

  • Identify the problem

First, we must ask and answer these questions: “What is wrong with me? What do I feel guilty about? What do I regret? What do I feel remorseful about? What are the faults in my life that I know need changing? What are the things I consciously feel guilty about, and what are the things I unconsciously feel guilty about that I don’t know about but are messing up my life?”

You have to approach this step with this attitude – “I’m going to be dead honest, quit pretending, I’m going to lay out what’s wrong with my life!” You can’t just say, “God, I’ve blown it in life.” Of course you have!  We all know that. We’ve all blown it in life!

As you analyze yourself, you must be ruthlessly honest with yourself – no more pretending – be specific!  This helps you to face reality, and helps you stop denying problems in your life.

Open your heart and mind to God and let Him reveal what you need to see: Psalm 139:23–24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” TLB

As you begin to see the truth about yourself, you can rely fully upon God’s grace, knowing that He has forgiven you – no matter what you have done.

  • Accept responsibility for your faults

Proverbs 20:27 – “The Lord gave us a mind and a conscious. We cannot hide from ourselves.” GNT

You will never have inward peace or tranquility, until you accept responsibility for your actions and deal with your guilt. To do this we need to:

Be radically honest: We ourselves are generally the greatest barrier or holdup to the healing of our own hurts, hang-ups, and habits. That’s why our healing starts with us being radically honest and saying, “I’m the problem – I accept responsibility for my faults!”

We can’t keep saying, “If I just change relationships, just change jobs, or just change towns, just change locations, then everything will be fine. The only problem is, wherever I go, there I am. And I keep messing it up.”

Don’t rationalize: We can’t keep saying, “It happened a long time ago” or, “It’s just a stage” or, “Everybody does it.” We need to be honest and face the truth about ourselves. Don’t minimize it, or say “It’s no big deal.” If it’s no big deal how come you still remember it twenty years later?

“Rationalize = rational lies!”  That means telling your mouth and head what your heart knows is wrong.  Just admit you messed up!

Don’t blame others: We blame others by saying, “It was mostly their fault.” It may have been mostly their fault, but God holds us responsible for whatever part is our fault. It’s time to stand tall and accept responsibility for our part in our life’s problems.

Don’t deceive yourself: We just need to admit where we messed up. What are you pretending to not feel guilty about? Don’t you think it’s time to finally deal with it and get over with it so you can get on with your life? Don’t you think it’s time to say: “Yes, that’s me—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I accept responsibility for my faults.”

 “If you really want to stop defeating yourself, you have got to stop deceiving yourself, and pretending that it’s everybody else’s fault – when the issue is really you.”

Special note: If you have been physically or sexually abused as a child or adult, I want you to know that I am sorry that you suffered through that abuse. There is no way I can know the pain it caused you. When you start writing down your list of wrongs, simply put the words “NOT GUILTY” for the abuse that was done to you. No part of that sin committed against you was your fault. Renounce the lie that the abuse was your fault. Do take responsibility for how you may have hurt others because of your reactions to your past abuse.

  • Admit you messed up

1 John 1:8 – “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” NKJV If we say we haven’t sinned, we are living in a world of illusion!

  •  Ask God for forgiveness

The basis for forgiveness is not how good or bad you’ve been.  The basis for forgiveness is God’s nature.  He cannot lie, and if He says He will forgive you, then He will forgive you.

The only sin God can’t forgive is the one that is not confessed:  1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” NKJV

A woman came in to see her preacher and said, “I’m depressed. I’ve been in bed for weeks, and I no longer have the energy to get out of bed and live.”

Sensing her deep pain, the preacher asked her, “Is there something in your life you really regret?”

She began to pour it out. “Yes. My husband travels. I had an affair and got pregnant and had an abortion. I have never told my husband about it.”

The preacher shared God’s promise that no matter what we have done, God can forgive us. Distressed, she replied, “It just doesn’t seem fair. Somebody’s got to pay for my sin!”

“Somebody already has,” the preacher assured her. “His name is Jesus Christ. That’s why He died on the cross. He died for that sin and every other one you’ve committed and confessed and ones you’re going to commit.”

She cried and asked, “How do I ask God for His forgiveness?”

4)  How not to get forgiveness from God

Don’t beg: You don’t have to beg God to forgive you. He already wants to forgive you. God wants to forgive you more than you want to ask for forgiveness, because He is a forgiving God.

Psalm 86:5 – “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.” NLT

Don’t bargain: Don’t say, “If You’ll just forgive me, I’ll never do this again.” You don’t have to bargain with God to get His forgiveness. You don’t have to make deals with God.

Don’t bribe: Don’t say, “God if You’ll forgive me, I promise to do a bunch of good things. I’ll go to church, I’ll do this or that…”

5)  How to get forgiveness from God

We must confess our sins to God and ask for forgiveness! To admit or to confess means to “speak the same thing” about your sin that God says about it! We must say, “God, You’re right. What I did or am still doing is wrong.”

Confession means agreeing with God: Psalm 32:5 – “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” NLT

God wants us to come clean and admit that wrong is wrong, that we are “guilty as charged.” He wants us to “own up” to our sins. For the person who confesses, shame is over and realities have begun.

Proverbs 28:13 – “You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins. Confess them and give them up, then God will show mercy to you.” (GNB) 

Many of us are reluctant to tell God the truth. We may want to pretend that God doesn’t know about our faults. We may not want to confess our sins to God because we don’t know how God could love someone who behaves as we do.

We may try to convince ourselves that we can bury our wrongs and never have to admit them. But sooner or later we will have to face the fact that dishonesty does not work to our advantage – that we eventually pay a high price for our self-deceit.

Our guilt cannot change the past just like worry cannot change the future – it just makes you sick and miserable today. But there is something about confession, about lining ourselves up with the truth of God, about repenting and turning away from sinful actions and attitudes that straightens us out. “Pain is inevitable for all of us, but misery is optional.” When we admit our wrongs to God, a great weight is lifted.

If you ask me to sum up the benefits of this choice in one sentence it would be this: “In confession we open our lives to the healing, reconciling, restoring, uplifting grace of Jesus Christ who loves us in spite of ourselves.”

You say, “I could never be forgiven for what I’ve done, I’ve gone too far, I’ve sinned too much, there is no hope for me, there is no way that God could ever love me or forgive me.”

You’re wrong! There is no sin too bad, too dark, too great, or too shocking, that God can’t and won’t forgive, every single time!  If we can truly repent, God will surely forgive no matter what!

Isaiah 1:18 – “Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!”  TLB

  • How does God forgive

God forgives instantly: He doesn’t wait. The moment we confess, we’re forgiven. It’s done. He never makes us wait or suffer for a while. He loves us way too much. Humans do that, but God doesn’t: Micah 7:18 – “Once again you will have compassion on us. You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them into the depths of the ocean!” NLT

God forgives freely: When we freely admit that we have sinned, we find God utterly reliable. He forgives our sin and makes us thoroughly clean from all that is evil. He freely takes away our sins. We don’t deserve it; we can’t earn it; we can’t work for it – it’s free:

Romans 3:23-24: “Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard, and all need to be made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They need to be made free from sin through Jesus Christ.” NCV

He forgives completely: God’s forgiveness is not in stages; it is not partial; it is absolutely complete. When God forgives, He wipes the slate clean and makes it like we have never done anything wrong: Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” NKJV

  • Conclusion

Is there any sin in your life you haven’t confessed that is causing you to have a guilty conscience?  The good news today is that you can be free of guilt – you don’t have to live with that burden any longer.  Open your heart to God with honesty, no deceit, sham or make-believe.

Acknowledge your sin, confess it before God, and see it as God sees it.  Turn from it, and avoid it at all costs. Bring it out in the open before Him, and renounce it.  Then believe it when He says you are forgiven! Hebrews 8:12 – “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” NLT

Every Christian has suffered from the guilt that comes after sin, but the blood of Jesus covers every sinevery single time!  Don’t let guilt drag you down after you have been forgiven.  Accept God’s forgiveness, forgive yourself, and live with a clean, forgiven conscience!

Many of us have learned to respond to our own failures, shortcomings, and wrongs with judgment and shame. Now we have an opportunity to show mercy to ourselves, and to face our failures with the same compassion that God extends to us. “Is it possible that all the horrible things you’ve done have been forgotten by everyone – except yourself?”

God hates our sin, but He loves us even more than He hates our sin. So, if there is anything from the past that you may still be carrying, take a moment and call on His faithfulness, call on His mercy, ask for His forgiveness. Let Him refresh and restore your soul right now.

Then praise Him and thank Him for the work He is doing in your life and enjoy a fresh new beginning today! Somewhere, sometime, somehow you got tangled up in garbage, and you’ve been avoiding God. You’ve allowed a veil of guilt to come between you and your Father.

You wonder if you could ever feel close to God again. God is not avoiding you. God is not resisting you. The door is open, and God invites you in. Besides, “the softest pillow you will ever sleep on is a clear conscience!”

God’s mercies are new every morning. He’s not ever going to run out of compassion. He’s not ever going to run out of forgiveness. He’s not ever going to say, “Well, this is the last time I’m going to give you mercy.” 

You can have a new beginning every single day! Lamentations 3:22-23: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning.” NLT

 

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No substitute for obedience

Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small (narrow) and the way is narrow (difficult) that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” NASB

In these verses, we find four contrasts:

Two Ways: There are two ways or paths we can take in life. One is the “broad way,” that leads to destruction. Then there is the “narrow way” that leads to life.

Two Gates: Next, Jesus said there are two gates! There is the “wide gate” that leads to destruction. Then there is the small, “narrow gate,” the way of Christ:

John 10:9 – “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved…” NASB

Two Crowds: Jesus also talks about two crowds, two groups of people. One is the group called the “many” who are traveling the broad path that leads to destruction. Then there is the group called the “few” who find everlasting life by following Jesus all the way!

Two Destinations: The broad way leads to “eternal destruction” in hell!  The narrow way leads to “everlasting life” in heaven!

In Matthew 7, Jesus clearly teaches us that “many” are on the broad road to destruction – tragically, most are unaware that they are. As a result, on the Day of Judgment, “many” will insist – very loudly – that the Lord should accept them – He will not!

Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” NKJV

Jesus teaches that we enter the kingdom through the narrow gate! How do we do that? By doing God’s will! No one can become a member of the church, be in a saving relationship with the Lord, and eventually enter heaven without doing the will of the Father.

There are three points from Matthew 7:21-23 that stand out above all others!

  1.  Words are no substitute for obedience

Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” NKJV

Notice that Jesus makes a distinction between the saved and the lost by contrasting the word “says” with the word “does.”

He begins by referring to those who called Him “Lord!” This is commendable, but calling Jesus “Lord” can never take the place of wholehearted submission to “Jesus as Lord.”

Even the demons acknowledged Jesus as “…the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24). After they made that confession, however, they were still demons.

Luke 6:46 – “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” NKJV

Though nobody is perfect, those who confess Jesus as Lord must “commit” themselves to keeping all of God commands to the very best of their ability, and commit to following Jesus, or heaven will never be their home!

We must have the attitude that says, “If God says to do it, that’s what I want to do!”

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” NKJV

The grace of God is only extended to those who are obedient to Him: Hebrews 5:9 – “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him…” NKJV

Biblical belief is more than something we confess with our mouths it’s something we confess with our lives – how we live!

Our words aren’t faith until they are expressed! Following Jesus requires movement! Our faith must have a story attached to it.

We express our faith by obedience: James 2:14-18: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” NIV

We express our love by obedience: John 14:15 – “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” NKJV

Obedience shows that we love God – if we have an obedience problem, then we have a love problem – if we love Him, we will obey Him! Matthew 12:50 – “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” NKJV

1 John 2:17 – “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” ESV

Calling Jesus “Lord” is useless when the confession is not backed up by a commitment to do His will. Both our lips and our lives must be dedicated to Him! “We can’t just talk the talk – we must walk the walk!”

2)  Hearing is no substitute for obedience

In the final segment of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus referred to those who obey His words and those who do not obey them. He said that the first will stand when the storms of time and eternity hit, while the second will be destroyed.

Matthew 7:24-25: “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.” NKJV

Hearing God’s Word is important. In the Old Testament, Moses exhorted the people, “Hear, O Israel…” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

In the New Testament we read: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matthew 11:15).

Romans 10:17“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” NKJV

It is very important that we learn to listen to God’s word, to the voice of the Great Shepherd! Why? So that we won’t be deceived!  Jesus had just said: Matthew 7:15 – “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” NASB

He warns us in Matthew 24:11 – “…many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” NKJV

It is possible that “People may live deceived, die deceived, and come before God in judgment deceived.” If you let yourself be deceived…

However, it is not enough to just hear God’s Word. In “The Parable of the Sower” (Matthew 13:1-23), all four categories of people heard the Word, but only one of the four bore fruit for God and were saved!

“Hearing without acting” on what we hear is nonproductive – it accomplishes nothing. Worse than that, in spiritual matters, it is counterproductive – it can damn the soul.

John R. W. Stott wrote that “the Bible is a dangerous book to read;” A. T. Robertson said, “Hearing sermons is a dangerous business!”

Dangerous, that is, when we do nothing about what we read and hear. We must hear the word, believe the word, and do the word! We must learn and then do:

James 1:21-25: “So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” NLT

In Matthew 7:26-27, Jesus turned His attention to the foolish builder: “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” NKJV

There is no mistaking the meaning of God’s word on this subject – it is not enough to know what Jesus says in His Word; we must do what He says. It is not enough to admire His teaching; we must act on it. It is not even enough to teach and preach on what Jesus said. As important as preaching is, it can never take the place of practice. We must obey Jesus. That is how we come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of His words, and that is how we please Him.

The word translated “foolish” is the word from which we get “moron.” It means “dull, sluggish, stupid, foolish.” “Only fools and morons disobey the Lord!”

In the Sermon on the Plain, Jesus said the wise man is the one who acts on His words: Luke 6:48 – “It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built.” NLT

To understand the imagery, it may be helpful to know something about the terrain of Palestine. The land was dry most of the year and had many dry ravines, some of which had sandy bottoms. During the rainy season, these ravines would swell with rushing floods of water that would sweep away everything in their path.

Try to envision the turbulence of the scene – the house was battered by rain from above, floods from beneath, and howling winds and waves from the side.

“Wait a minute!” someone may protest. “This is the wise builder. This is the one who both hears and obeys. Surely, the wise and obedient are not subject to storms like the foolish and disobedient!”

Friends, those who follow Jesus have stormy weather just like those who refuse to follow Him. These are the storms of this life. Our lives can be battered by illness, disappointments, grief, betrayal, persecution, and death. The challenges of old age and the approach of death can threaten to overwhelm us.

Of greater consequence is what happens on the Day of Judgment: 2 Corinthians 5:10 – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” ESV

When the two houses were hammered by the storms, the wise man’s house that was built on solid rock stood while the foolish man’s house that was built on sand fell!

Since the foolish man did not bother with a firm foundation, his house was probably built more quickly than that of the wise man. I can imagine him gloating as he said to the other builder, “I got my house built in half the time!”  But then the rains came down!

But Jesus wasn’t talking about actual house builders. He was not concerned about building houses, but about us building our spiritual lives on the Rock of Ages:

Matthew 16:13-18: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” ESV

Ephesians 2:19-21: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” ESV

The sad fact is that every day the majority of people on earth (the many) emulate the foolish builder in attitude and action. People are very foolishly doing what they want to do or foolishly doing nothing at all, fully expecting God to be ok with it!

Sometimes people say, “I’m a good person. Won’t God accept me into heaven? Surely my good will outweigh my bad and I will be ok?”

Occasionally I hear Christians say things like, “Well, he wasn’t a Christian, but he sure was a good guy and I think people like that will surely go to heaven too.”

When we hold out this kind of hope that our non-Christian friends and family will make it to heaven, we actually reveal a huge and fundamental flaw in our understanding of the gospel: “Good people don’t go to heaven; saved people do!”

We often refer to people who are nice, easy to get along with, and helpful to others as “good” people. They may certainly do some good things. They may volunteer to feed the homeless, care for sick children in the hospital, and help little old ladies across the street. They may be generous and kind. They may not sleep around, do drugs, or even drink. But none of this makes a person “good.”

There is only one standard of “good”“…No one is good – except God alone” (Mark 10:18). NIV

If a person is not perfect, as God is, he or she is “not good.” God does not grade on a curve and He does not lower His standards just so we can meet them. He does not say, “Well, you aren’t perfect, but at least you’re better than some people.”

The reason no one is good is because everyone has sinned. We have all “missed the mark.” God created us for His glory and we have all fallen short:

Ecclesiastes 7:20 – “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.” NKJV

Isaiah 64:6 – “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags.” NLT

Romans 3:10-12:  “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” NKJV

Romans 3:23 – “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” NKJV

From Adam to Moses to David to Peter to Paul to every one of us, all have sinned: Psalm 143:2“…For in Your sight no one living is righteous.” NKJV

The whole point of the gospel is that man is incapable of washing his own sins away. If we have sinned – even one time – we have a problem that we cannot solve on our own. Doing a million good deeds will not erase a single sin. If it were possible to work off our debt of sin, Jesus would not have had to die.

The blood of Jesus is the only thing that can take away our sin and make us clean: Hebrews 9:22“…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” ESV

When we hold out hope that generous and kind people will go to heaven, we are really saying, “Maybe Jesus was wrong. Maybe people’s good deeds really do wash their sins away. Maybe people can save themselves from their own sins. Maybe Jesus didn’t have to die on the cross after all.”

The gospel is our ONLY” hope: Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” NKJV

Jesus is the ONLY” way to the Father: John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” NKJV

To say there is a way to avoid the punishment we all deserve and receive eternal life in heaven by any other way than through Christ, is to directly contradict Jesus (call Him a liar).

Christianity is not a “universalist” religion – the Bible does not teach that everyone will be saved. The only way to heaven is through Christ, if we want to go there, we must accept Him and His sacrifice and obey His word!

Those who refuse what Jesus offers and/or try to make it on their own will be separated from God for all eternity!

On the Day of Judgment, every man-made protection will be stripped away. Only those in Christ will stand, those not in Christ will stand defenseless before the mighty throne of God. Then those who are unprepared, will fall, and great will be their fall!

3)  Religious works are no substitute for relationship

Matthew 7:22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” NKJV

Jesus teaches us that on “That day” (Judgment Day), there will be a lot of religious people who will fully expect to go to heaven, but instead will be lost! Notice how these people defend themselves – “We prophesied, we drove out demons, we performed miracles.”

The examples Jesus mentions are somewhat surprising. They seem pretty impressive from where I sit. I’ve never driven out demons or performed miracles.

If they can’t get in with their list, there’s no way my list is going to get me into heaven! That’s exactly the point Jesus is trying to make.

He intentionally chooses the more dramatic and extraordinary spiritual achievements to make one thing perfectly clear – no matter how many good works you do, that’s not what makes you a true follower of Jesus!

To make application to us, we might imagine someone saying to the Lord on the Day of Judgment, “Lord, did I not attend all the services of the church, live a good moral life, and in Your name help many people?”

It makes me nervous to think of this, but I can even imagine a preacher saying, “Lord, did I not faithfully preach for You all those years, teach numerous Bible classes, write religious articles, and in Your name counsel many troubled souls?”

Whatever they had done, these people evidently thought their righteous acts and good deeds entitled them to special treatment. They thought wrong!

All these activities are commendable, but nothing we say or do will matter unless they result in us having a right loving conversational relationship with the Lord where we know the Lord and He knows us!

Matthew 7:23 – “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” NKJV

How can we be certain that when Jesus comes back, He will not say to us – “Depart from Me, I never knew you?” To put it in simple terms, “How do we know that we know Him?”

It is simple but demanding. If you want to know God, if you want to deepen your understanding of God, if you want to know the mind of God, if you want to turn your knowledge about God into knowledge of God, you must obey God, right now, without any question – obey Him again and again and again!  Those who know God are the ones who obey God! You grow in the knowledge of God by obeying God:

1 John 2:3-4: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” NKJV

When we obey God in the simple little things, He begins to accomplish in us things only He can do (Fruit of the Spirit).

God begins to reveal Himself, unveil Himself, give us spiritual knowledge and understanding, we will begin to see God on a deeper, higher level, and we will begin to experience Him at work through us.

You grow in the knowledge of God by obeying – but if you expect God to give you some great understanding of who He is when you’re afraid to step off first base, He’s not going to do it.

You cannot stay where you are and go with God. You cannot continue doing things your way and accomplish God’s purposes in His ways.  You must adjust to Him. Luke 14:27 – “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” NKJV

4)  Conclusion

Matthew 7:28-29: “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” NKJV

The Greek word translated “amazed” or “astonished” is a strong word. It means “to be struck out of one’s senses,” to be “made speechless,” to “be astonished.”

The crowds were amazed and astonished at His teaching. Have you been amazed and astonished? When they heard Him teach, the crowds followed Him! What about you? Are you willing to follow Him? Are you ready to commit yourself to do His will? You can live any way you want, but only those who obey Him will be blessed.

2 Thessalonians 1:7-10: “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.” NKJV

You may be a Christian who has stumbled and fallen – greatly – and you may be thinking “There is no way God could ever love or forgive me – I’ve gone too far, I’ve sinned too much, there is no hope for me!”

Jesus does set a high standard, but He never abandons those who are willing to try again. He loves His followers as a shepherd loves and values his sheep.

He’s concerned when even one is lost or stops following Him. When we fail Him and do a poor job of following, Jesus always wants us to try again.  Our salvation does not depend on our perfect performance, but instead is anchored in our constant willingness to follow:

Isaiah 1:18 – “Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!” TLB

1 John 5:1-5:Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” ESV

The only thing in life truly worthwhile is to know God.  If you don’t allow your study about God turn into obedience of God where you can be in a right relationship with God, you are wasting your life, and you are losing your soul!

1 John 5:12 – “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” ESV

John 17:3 – And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” NKJV

 

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Jesus Christ Crucified

When Paul arrived in Corinth, he faced the city “in weakness with great fear and trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). His feelings were understandable. Since leaving Troas and crossing into Macedonia (Acts 16:8–12), he had experienced numerous setbacks in his attempts to preach the gospel to the Greeks.

He had been thrown into jail and beaten in Philippi (Acts 16:22–40), had been persecuted by the Jews in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5–9) and Berea (Acts 17:13-14), and had seen very little success in trying to convince the Athenians that God had raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:31–34). Then he entered Corinth, a prosperous, influential city with a reputation for wickedness – perhaps the equivalent of New York City in our day. No wonder Paul felt afraid!

Under those circumstances, what did he do? 1 Corinthians 2:1-2: “And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” NIV

Everywhere Paul went, he preached the same message: Acts 9:20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” NIV

He preached this in the synagogue in Antioch – Acts 13:28-30: “Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead…” NIV

When he preached in Thessalonica, he went around “…explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah…” (Acts 17:3).

When he preached to the Greek philosophers on Mars’ Hill, he preached Jesus Christ as the One whom God had raised from the dead: Acts 17:30-31: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” NIV

So, when he traveled to Corinth and faced the difficulties involved in reaching the people of that great city, he made up his mind to preach what he had always preached – “Christ crucified.”  What exactly does that include?

The story of His life

Jesus’ story includes how He was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18–21).  At the age of twelve, He went to Jerusalem with His parents and amazed the rabbis there with His understanding (Luke 2:41–52).  Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee with His brothers and sisters as the Son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter, and became a carpenter Himself (Mark 6:3).

At the age of thirty, Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by His cousin John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13–17). Immediately afterwards, He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness for forty days but refused to give in to temptation (Matthew 4:1–11; Hebrews 4:15).

He chose twelve men to be His apostles, to accompany Him on His travels, to learn from Him, and then to go and teach His word to others (Matthew 4:18–22; Mark 3:13–19).

His earthly ministry lasted over three years, during which He spent His time healing the sick, casting out demons, and teaching people: Matthew 9:35 – “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.” NIV

At the end of His ministry, Jesus died by the hands of the Romans at the insistence of the Jews, who were enraged at His claims. His death was followed by His burial, resurrection, ascension, and His glorification:

Acts 2:32–36: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” NIV

Before He ascended into heaven, He gave marching orders to His apostles: Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” NIV

Mark 16:15-16: “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” NIV

What does this mean?  Preach “Christ crucified!”

Who He is

Preaching Christ begins by teaching that He is the Son of God and the one and only Savior of mankind. His miracles were signs that pointed to the fact that He was the Son of God:

John 20:30-31: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” NIV

God Himself identified Jesus as His Son (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). Peter confessed Him to be “the Messiah (Christ), the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16), as did many others (John 1:49). Jesus spoke of Himself as the Son of God and claimed to be divine (John 10:33–36; 8:24, 58).

In preaching Christ, we must also present Him as the Savior and only hope of mankind: Acts 4:12 – “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” NIV

We must, and we can never waver on this point, absolutely insist that He is the only way to God: John 14:6 – “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” NIV

In addition to proclaiming Jesus as God’s Son and our Savior, we must present Him as “Lord.” Peter declared that God had made Jesus “both Lord and Messiah (Christ)” (Acts 2:36). To be saved, people must acknowledge Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9).

The word “Lord” indicates Jesus’ divinity, majesty, authority, and kingship. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and the absolute head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23).

Since Jesus is our Lord, we must acknowledge His authority and accept His instructions and on all points we must do what He says! Luke 6:46 – “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” NIV

  • The Message of the Cross

Preaching Christ also includes the story of what He did for us in His death, burial and resurrection.  From the beginning, many have failed to grasp the significance and importance of the death of Christ. Without His death for our sins, there could be no salvation for our souls.

The  message  of  the cross  seemed  ridiculous  to  first century  listeners: 1 Corinthians 1:23 – “…but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles…” NIV

The Jews stumbled over the idea that a crucified man – one who was under a curse, according to the Law – was the Christ. The Gentiles thought the idea of a crucified Savior was foolishness. The preaching of the cross does not make much more sense to people today. Many wonder, “What could the death of a man almost two thousand years ago have to do with me?”

Even though it seems foolish to the human mind, we must believe and teach that the message of the cross is God’s power to save:

1 Corinthians 1:18 – “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” NIV

Jesus died as the sinless sacrifice  for  sins,  so  that – through  His death – He  might  redeem  us  from  our  sins. He took upon Himself our sins so that we would not have to bear them and be condemned by them. He suffered what we should have suffered.

1 John 4:10 – “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” NIV

Isaiah 53:4-5:Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” NIV

John 1:29 – “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” NIV

Romans 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” NIV

1 Peter 2:24 – “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” NIV

Revelation  1:5 – “…and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood…” NIV

The “heart” of the gospel which saves us is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ:  1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” NIV

The Coming Judge

The story of Jesus does not end with His ascension and glorification in heaven.  We must also teach that Christ is coming again and that, when He comes, He will judge the world: Acts 17:31 – “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” NIV

At that time, Jesus will deal once and for all with those who have rejected Him and refused to obey Him, and take back to heaven those who did: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10:  “…and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.” NIV

Acts 24:25 – “As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” NIV

As Paul spoke, Felix “became frightened.” Sinners should be frightened at the prospect of standing before Christ in judgment. However, faithful Christians don’t have to fear the Lord’s coming; for them it will be a great day of salvation.

Apply the Message of the Cross

To preach “Christ crucified” is to preach the gospel, the “good news.”

The message of the cross is good news for all, because as accountable individuals, we are all sinners: Romans 3:23 – “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” NIV

Because of our sins, we are condemned to death: Romans 6:23 – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” NIV

Simply defined, the word “death” means “separation.”  Physical death is the separation of body and spirit (James 2:26), but spiritual death is far worse than physical death – it is the separation of a human being from God. Isaiah 59:2 – “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” NIV

Romans 8:2 – “…because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.”  NIV

What is this law of sin and death?  “Sin leads to death!”  James 1:15 – “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” NIV

Sin violates God’s law and brings about the penalty of death – with absolutely no exceptions.  His law applies to every sinner, regardless of the sin.  That really puts us in a bind with God, because if there is one thing the Bible makes perfectly clear – from Adam to Moses to David to Peter to Paul to every one of us, all have sinned: Psalm 143:2“…for no one living is righteous before you.” NIV

Friends, the fact, reality, and enormity of sin must be dealt with. Since we can’t deal with it ourselves, God dealt with it for us on the cross. On the cross, Christ responded to the problem of universal sin with a universal sacrifice.

2 Corinthians 5:21 – “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” NIV

On the cross, Jesus took on all of the sins that had ever been committed or would ever be committed by every person who ever lived. For a few hours, Jesus “became guilty” of our sins, and suffered the same separation from God that sin will cause many people to suffer in hell. His death was equal to every person who ever lived spending an eternity in hell.  Hebrews  9:26 – “…But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” NIV

If Christ had not died for us, we would have no hope. Since He did die for us, we can have hope. What we could not do – save ourselves – Christ has done for us. We owed a debt we could not pay; Christ paid that debt, a debt He did not owe, by dying for us on the cross, suffering the punishment we should have suffered.

Because He did, we can be saved. No matter what our sins have been, they can be washed away in the blood of Christ!

No matter who you are or what you’ve done or how empty you may feel in your heart – know that to God you are not a throwaway person – you can begin all over again right now and experience the love, joy and peace that will make you whole again!

Lamentations 3:22-23:Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” NIV

Conclusion

You can laugh and scoff at the message if you want to, but as long as you find it foolish, you will remain unsaved.  On the other hand, those who accept that message will find in it God’s power to save. Will you find the message of the cross foolish and remain lost, or will you accept it as fact and be saved?

Any day, Christ may return. Each day brings us closer to the grave and the judgment. Today is the day of salvation, tomorrow may be too late for you!

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The road less traveled

Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” NLT

According to the Bible, we are all going through life as “travelers” instead of “dwellers.” The question is, “Which way are we traveling?” “Which road are we on?” “Which path are we taking?”

Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small (narrow) and the way is narrow (difficult) that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” NASB

In these verses, we find four contrasts:

Two Ways: There are two ways or paths we can take in life. One is the “broad way.” The word translated “broad” means “spacious, roomy.” There is room on this road for a wide variety of people and opinions, all of whom are spiritually dead! It has many lanes:

There is a lane for unbelievers, skeptics, agnostics, and atheists – and all who live immoral ungodly lives!

There is a lane for hard-working worldly people preoccupied with success and making money and are obsessed with pleasure!

There is a lane for morally good people who are depending on their own goodness for salvation!

There is a lane for conscientious religious people who think they will be saved by their man-made rituals!

There is a lane for Christians who started off right but are now lukewarm hypocrites!

There is a lane for all who believe that there are other things more important in life than Jesus Christ and His church: 1 John 5:21 – “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” NLT

There is a lane for all who believe that there are many roads that lead to heaven besides following Jesus: John 14:6 – “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” NKJV

There are no curbs, no boundaries or any guardrails on this road. You can go where you want to go, be what you want to be, and do what you want to do. “The way is easy that leads to destruction.”

Then there is the “narrow way.” The word translated “narrow” means “to press, to be pressed together, to be compressed.”

Unlike the previous road, it is not spacious or roomy – Jesus said it is not an easy pathway. “The way that leads to life is hard.”

The Christian life is not for cowards or quitters: Revelation 21:8 – “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” NKJV

The way to life may be narrow, but it is wide enough to include “people of all generations and ages, tongues and dialects, races and nationalities,” all who are willing to follow Jesus!

Two Gates: Next, Jesus said that there are “two gates.” There is the “wide gate.” It is not difficult to enter this gate, and there is no limit to the amount of “baggage” you can take with you as you enter it. You do not have to leave anything behind.

You can come in with your sin and selfishness, your pride and prejudices, your fear and anxieties, your anger and hatred and bitterness and unforgiveness, etc!

Then there is the small, “narrow gate.” The KJV calls it “the strait gate.” “Strait” is from a Latin word that means “narrow.”

The Greek word in verse 13 means “narrow.” The word is translated “small” in verse 14. Since this gate is small, you cannot just stroll through this one by accident. It is easy to miss; you have to look for it. It is entered by “choice,” not “chance.”

Also, since it is narrow, you have to get rid of your personal “baggage” in order to enter.

Luke 9:23 – “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” NKJV

Following Jesus means that we are living the Christian life with a holy hatred of sin and a resolve to get rid of our baggage and become more like Jesus daily.

The narrow way is the way of Christ: John 10:9 – “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved…” NASB

The gate to life may be small and narrow, but it is big enough and wide enough for any who are willing to come to the Lord. The best decision you will ever make is to follow Jesus, because those who walk with the Lord always reach their destination!

Two Crowds: Jesus also talks about two crowds, two groups of people. One is the group called the “many.”

“There are many who enter through” the wide gate, “many” who are on the broad way.

The broad way is the way of the multitude, the way of the masses. The motto of this road is “Everybody’s doing it.”

When Moses was instructing Israel, he said: Exodus 23:2 – “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil…” NASB

Why? Because as the old Cherokee saying goes – “He who follows the crowd will soon get lost in it!”

In contrast to the group called the “many,” there is the group called the “few” who find everlasting life by following Jesus all the way!

We should not think that “few” means “almost nobody.” In Revelation 7:9, the saved are described as “…a vast crowd, too great to count…” Nevertheless, this special group is still relatively few compared to the many on the broad way.

Jesus concluded one parable with these words: Matthew 22:14 – “For many are called, but few are chosen.” NLT

The message of Matthew 7 is that “not everyone will please God.” The world does not want to believe this. A popular belief today is that anytime someone dies – anyone, good or bad – he “goes into the light,” where loving people wait to greet him. Jesus said that is not the case.

According to Jesus, more are headed to the realm of “outer darkness” than are headed to the “realm of light!”

The narrow way is a restricted way, and it is often a difficult way! It can even be a lonely way. If you follow Jesus on the narrow way, you will definitely be persecuted:

2 Timothy 3:12 – “…everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” NLT

“I would rather walk alone than with a crowd going in the wrong direction!”

Two Destinations: The broad way leads to “destruction.” The word translated “destroy” or “destruction” means “to utterly destroy, to ruin.” This word does not mean “extinction,” but “a loss of all that gives value and worth to human existence – not of being, but of well-being – eternal misery!

Solomon wrote: Proverbs 14:12 – “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” NLT

If you follow the broad path you will be eternally separated from God: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9: “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day…”  NKJV

What does “everlasting destruction” mean? Picture this in your mind? Coming from every direction are the sounds of a massive, roaring, blazing fire, but you can’t see anything because it’s completely dark. All around you are the sounds of anguish, sounds of untold billions of people screaming and crying out in pain!

These people seem to be in the process of being cut up into thousands of pieces. Where are they?  The place the Bible calls “hell” – the burning lake of fire, where people will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The Bible describes hell as the most horrifying place imaginable, so horrific it is beyond our ability to comprehend, so dreadful it brings tears to my eyes to even preach about it!

According to the Bible, hell is a miserable place of great suffering, intense agony and torment.  It is a brutal place of horror, pain, grief, punishment and tears.

Hell is an awful place of choking, stinking sulfuric fumes; a burning, churning sea of fire where all you can hear are people screaming and crying, because their bodies are rolling in flames of liquid fire.

Hell is a terrible place of darkness, disorientation, dread, torment and unbelievable pain; a lake which burns with fire and brimstone; a place of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth; a place where the soul will be violently tormented, continually, ceaselessly, eternally! Hell is ugly, ugly, ugly!

Hell is a place of eternal anguish and misery; a place of eternal burning; a place of eternal darkness; a place without rest, comfort, peace or hope!

Hell will be a Godless, Christ-less place filled with lost souls condemned to an eternity of fiery darkness, pain, misery and regret – filled with people who will say for all of eternity – “I don’t want to be here, I wish I would have listened, I wish I could have just one more chance.”

“People in hell will be tormented by the thoughts of neglected opportunities: ‘If I had obeyed the gospel; if I had listened to the pleading of my wife; if I had gone forward that night! You will not be dead five seconds until you would give ten million worlds like this one for an opportunity to become a Christian.” Jimmy Allen

The thought that God will punish forever those who have not obeyed Him in a place like this is horrifying, but that is exactly what the Bible teaches: Revelations 20:15 – “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”  NKJV

The broad way leads to “destruction,” but the narrow way leads to “life.” Revelation 21:3-4: “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  NKJV

Many think of the narrow way as being difficult because of the price that has to be paid at the beginning, but that is nothing compared to the price that will be paid at the end by those on the broad way.

We have four contrasts, but only two options – the narrow way that leads to life or the broad way that leads to destruction.

John R. W. Stott wrote: “…there are according to Jesus only two ways, hard and easy (there is no middle way), entered by two gates, broad and narrow (there is no other gate), trodden by two crowds, large and small (there is no neutral group), ending in two destinations, destruction and life (there is no third alternative).”

Luke 13:22-30:Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” NASB

Jesus teaches that if you need to change the direction of your life – do it at once, because when He comes back, it will be too late to alter course.

The narrow way is the difficult pathway, and only a few are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to travel on it. The broad way is the easy way, the popular way, chosen by many. Most do not like to face this unpleasant truth, but if Jesus’ words mean anything, they teach that more will be lost than will be saved.

“Are you on the narrow road? If you say you do not know, then you are not, for no one enters the narrow way by accident. If you are not on the narrow road, then you are on the broad road and are headed for eternal destruction! You are only one heartbeat away from eternity – are you ready!”

How can we get on the narrow way? Jesus answered that question in the verses that follow – by obeying what He tells us:

Matthew 7:21–27:Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell – and great was its fall.” NASB

Jesus specifically teaches us how to enter the narrow gate to life:

We must believe in Jesus: John 8:24 – “…unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” NLT

The gate is too narrow for those who want to believe in some other savior.

We must repent of our sins: Luke 13:3 – “…unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” NKJV

The gate is too narrow for those who don’t want to let go of their old lifestyles – to stop their willful deliberate sinning!

“Repentance doesn’t mean anything if you keep doing what you are sorry for!”

We are to confess His name before men: Matthew 10:32-33: “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” NKJV

The gate is too narrow for those reluctant to take a public stand for Jesus. When you confess Jesus to be the Son of God, you are not just acknowledging His identity – you are taking a stand against the opinions of the world and aligning yourself with Him, or pledging your loyalty to Him.

If you have not confessed Him, you are “undeclared.” There is no such thing as a secret disciple!

We must be baptized in order to be saved: Mark 16:15-16: “…Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” NKJV

The gate is too narrow for those who are too stubborn and unwilling to obey Him. Jesus said: John 14:15 – “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” NASB

We must live faithful and Godly lives: 1 John 1:7 – “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” NKJV

Revelation 2:10 – “…Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” NKJV

Each of us, at one time or another has experienced some kind of failure in our spiritual lives. When we fail Jesus and do a poor job of following, He always wants us to try again.

Jesus never abandons those who are willing to try again. Our salvation does not depend on our perfect performance, but instead is anchored in our constant willingness to follow!

No matter how far wrong you’ve gone, you can always turn around! It doesn’t matter how far you have fallen or how big a mess you’ve made of your life, you are never too lost to be saved!

Isaiah 1:18 – “Come, let’s talk this over, says the Lord; no matter how deep the stain of your sins, I can take it out and make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool!” TLB

How can we stay on the narrow way? By continuing to obey Christ’s commands! The New Testament does not teach that it is impossible for one who is on the narrow way to leave:

James 5:19-20: “My dear brothers and sisters, if someone among you wanders away from the truth and is brought back, you can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from death and bring about the forgiveness of many sins.” NLT

Sadly, more than one traveler on the narrow way has grown tired of its restrictions and has abandoned it for the broad, easy way!

Conclusion: In Matthew 7, Jesus says “many” who assume they are on the path to heaven will find out that hell is their final destination – no doubt some of them are in this room!

Is it possible that you think you are on the narrow road but you are actually on the broad road?

Donald Whitney once said, “If a person is wrong about being right with God, then ultimately it really doesn’t matter what he or she is right about.”

Is it possible that you are “wrong about being right with God?”

One road leads to everlasting destruction, away from the presence of the Lord – the other road leads to everlasting life with the Lord! In simple terms, one is “the highway to heaven while the other is the low road to hell!”

“Life has many choices – eternity has two – which choice do you make, which road are you on?”

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Three sins or four

The America I knew as a boy is gone, and I say that with a broken heart. This nation was dedicated by our founding fathers to Almighty God.  They understood that we have to be a moral people first before we can be a free people. Now, just like the Israelites in Nehemiah’s time, America has been taken captive by a foreign power – the “world,” the “flesh,” and the “devil!”

America and our civilization as we know it is in a moral freefall/chaos/fog, our world is standing at the edge of a moral black hole. We are living at a time when we are skidding out of control, when everything Biblical and true is being ravaged, when moral decay and spiritual disintegration are sweeping our nation and our world right straight into hell.

There’s a serious sickness of the soul that is crippling individuals, families, churches and communities – a sociopathic virus that is hollowing out the soul of our country.

America is very ill spiritually – a consequence of turning away from Jesus and making a mockery of Almighty God!  Our culture openly defies God, the Bible, the church, marriage, morals, ethics – our nation has turned its back on God and the result is tragic!

We have for years asked God to leave us alone and remove Himself from our public forum and we wonder why we have so many problems – today’s paper is like yesterday’s – crime, abortion, divorce, violence, greed, gambling, abuse, theft, murder, government corruption, war, suicide, drug addiction, alcoholism, and abominable sexual immorality of all types, etc!

America’s ungodly culture of today is telling us that we must tolerate a new and a modern gospel for a new and a modern age (anything goes). But, if it’s new, it isn’t true, and we cannot, must not, dare not tolerate what is absolutely intolerable to God.

America has become a nation of idolaters, trying to find fulfillment everywhere else but in God – and our churches and families are being devastated!

America’s homes are in serious trouble.  Many of our children do not live at home with their mothers/fathers, sometimes that happens because of death, but most of the time it happens because of sin!  Many homes have a father/mother who has walked out; some don’t even know who their father is.

Satan has leveled all the artillery of hell at families and the homes of America – and the result is a tragedy. The devil has pipelined pornography straight into the living rooms of America through the television and the internet, and even little children are feeding off of it. Drugs and alcohol and suicide are ravaging young people. And we, we have ceased to be shocked.

What was horrible yesterday is acceptable today and a stepping stone for something worse tomorrow, if it can get worse. “It seems like in America, we have eaten through the bottom of the garbage pail.”

Because America has rejected a Biblical worldview and accepted and condones what God has clearly called “abomination,” we are no longer “One nation under God.” We are now “One nation going under!”

That is America – so called “God blessed America.”  Can God bless sin? No! Proverbs 14:34 – “Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” NLT

If God were to speak to us today, what do you think He would say?  I believe the answer can be found in the book of Amos!

Amos 1:1-2: “The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa – the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoash was king of Israel. He said: “The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds dry up, and the top of Carmel withers.” NIV

Amos was a simple country preacher who left his home in Judah and traveled 22 miles to Bethel to preach a harsh message of judgment against the kingdom of Israel.

Amos began by pronouncing the Lord’s judgment upon six neighboring nations, then Judah and then Israel, then finally the whole nation.  He told them they were about to be violently judged for their sins, and compared God to a roaring lion.

The purpose of a lion’s roar is to paralyze its victim with fear, making it helpless before the lion’s charge.  Then comes the pounce, the tearing, and inevitable death!  God is pictured as the lion doing the roaring and the judging.  I believe this message from God applies to us as well.

Amos begins with the nations that surround Israel and gradually spirals in on Israel itself.  Each of the eight oracles of Amos 1:3 – 2:16 begins with the statement “For three sins of…even for four.”  This is a literary device used to express the concept of “many, or again and again.”

They would be punished for their many abundant sins, especially the one named. These nations had sinned again and again and again, they just kept on sinning.  God allowed them to sin to their capacity, even to the point of overflowing.

The “fourth sin/transgression” is equivalent to the last straw – the iniquity of each of the eight countries is full.

Judah and Israel rejected the word of God and turned to the same false gods which had deceived many of their ancestors.

Amos 2:4-5: “This is what the Lord says: “For three sins of Judah, even for four, I will not relent. Because they have rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept his decrees, because they have been led astray by false gods, the gods their ancestors followed, I will send fire on Judah that will consume the fortresses of Jerusalem.” NIV

Amos 2:12 – “But you made the Nazirites drink wine and commanded the prophets not to prophesy.” NIV

This led to empty and despicable religious practices that were offensive to God: Amos 4:4-5: “Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings—boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do,” declares the Sovereign Lord.” NIV

They were going through all the right motions, even above and beyond. Outwardly they put on a show of religion, but their heart was far from God, like some in Jesus’ day: Matthew 15:7-9: “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.” NLT

The punishment for the sins of idolatry and futile worship would be the destruction of the nation.  Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 722 BC; Judah fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC.  The roar of the Lord and of His judgment had ended.

Why do we need to hear these warnings today?  Because the same attitude and state of the heart that caused the death of Judah and Israel can be found throughout the nations of the world today! Our world has forgotten the lesson of Amos, that God judges nations throughout history based on their morality!

How much further can we go before God says enough – before we hear the roar of the lion?  Are we listening? Or are we like Israel – too busy with our comfortable lives to pay attention?

Friends, you and I are living witnesses to the dismantling of our nation’s religious, moral and spiritual foundations, our Christian heritage, right before our very eyes.  I am talking about a gradual chipping away at the foundation of American civilization.  For the first 185 years of our nation, American culture was friendly towards Christianity.  Around the world America was understood to be a Christian nation, but that is no longer the case.

Over the last 50+ years the sinister forces of humanism, atheism, evolution, liberalism, legalism, pluralism, paganism, cults, the occult, astrology, Satanism, the abominations of abortion and homosexuality, the idolatrous practice of gambling, false religions of all shapes and sizes, to include the false religion called “political correctness” have been aggressive in their attempts to destroy America and drown and silence the church.

They are succeeding in gradually dismantling many of the moral and spiritual principles that once characterized our society. Political correctness is destroying the very fabric of our society. Never before in history have people been so afraid to stand up against absurdity for fear of being labeled a racist, a homophobe, or a bigot!

Atheism is growing in America. Their stated agenda is to force all Christians into the confines of their church buildings and to destroy all faith in God in our society!

Their plan is for us to never go outside our buildings to do anything to express our faith (Russia). They want to completely root out all Christian faith in our society! These people are dangerous.

Who is to say that after they have us all locked up in our buildings they will be satisfied with that? They will then monitor what we do in those buildings and how we express our faith to our children. Eventually there could be censorship and penalties against those who hold out to include jail and persecution.

A land now filled with Bibles will become a land where it is illegal to have a Bible. Think this could never happen? The first stages have already taken place (Iowa).

Today, we are in a culture war that comes down to essentially one issue – whether or not the United States of America and the church is going to acknowledge the supremacy of the one true God of the Bible.

That’s what the ACLU and all other forces that are attempting to eradicate Christianity are focused on.  This is about whether or not God is going to be permitted to hold the place that He has held from the very beginning of our nation.

Social and political liberals from Hollywood to our universities to our media to the nation’s capital are hostile toward God and are becoming more open about it all the time. In the middle of this social chaos, the church is facing the most perilous times it has ever faced in America.

There are powerful forces in America today who say that in order to be truly free we must rid ourselves of all moral restrictions, which means ridding ourselves of God.  Every effort is being made to eradicate all public references to God and Christianity!

Liberal historians and judges are rewriting our history and our laws.  They claim that all religions should be tolerated as equal and that Christianity should not be given public expression above other religions (or at all).

To practice Christianity publicly is now considered “insensitive”   because we might “offend” those who do not share our beliefs.

Judges are continually ordering the removal of crosses and nativity scenes and the Ten Commandments, etc., from public property because they supposedly violate a constitutional ban on government endorsement of religion.

They have been working overtime for many years to make it illegal to even mention the name of God in public places (prayer, the pledge of allegiance, 10 Commandments, money).

Even the phrase “Merry Christmas” is forbidden in certain places. Lebanese born scholar Abu Musaab Wajdi Akkari, a Muslim imam, said: “Saying Merry Christmas is worse than fornication and drinking alcohol and killing someone!”

Today you can express any opinion you want as long as you do not tell someone that what they are doing is sinful in the eyes of God. Hollywood can show murders, rapes, homosexuality, and any other number of sinful acts, but don’t you dare tell another person that they are acting in an offensive manner before God.

People in the world see this as homophobia and intolerance! Christians understand that this is an act of love – potentially saving a soul from the very pit of hell.

This conspiracy parades itself under the guise that the founding fathers and the constitution advocated a “separation of church and state” – meaning that all references to God and Christianity should not be permitted in public settings that are associated with the government, the community, or public schools.

This phrase is not found in the constitution but in a private letter written by Thomas Jefferson on January 1, 1802, when he was president (years after the constitution was written) to the Danbury Baptist association who had written him concerned that the government might interfere with the free and open practice of religion.  Jefferson wrote to assure them that it wasn’t going to happen.  Now the phrase is being interpreted to say the exact opposite by the forces of evil in this country who want to eradicate Christianity from our society.

“Our society strives to avoid any possibility of offending anyone – except God. Yet the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control. My heart aches for America and its deceived people.”

On 15 April 2008, Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, in response to an attack on organized religion by Bill Maher, said – “It is open season on Christians in America, you can demean and defame them and the media will laugh along with you.”

The only thing, it seems, that is not tolerated in America today is Christianity!

Because of this attitude based upon a lie we are seeing unbelievable decisions perpetrated upon our lives by people who do not fear God!

Adolf Hitler, in his book that was considered the Nazi Bible entitled: “Mein Kampf” (‘My struggle/my battle’) said “By means of shrewd lies unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell – and hell heaven.  The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.” 

Americans today have come to dwell in an Alice-in-wonderland world of fantasy and self-delusion where everything has been turned upside down and inside out.

In our America, right is wrong, wrong is right, good is bad, bad is good, normal is abnormal, abnormal is normal, true is false and false is true:

Isaiah 5:20 – “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” NKJV

We no longer live in a Judeao-Christian environment or even a post JC environment – we are now living in an anti-Christian environment that has degenerated into a decadent culture obsessed with selfishness and sin, death and destruction, and this attitude is taking a terrible toll on humanity.

We have come to a place when as a nation we have said, “If the stock market is setting records then things are fine, so don’t get shook up over moral issues.”

Our nation is suffering from the worst recession to ever hit the world – not economic or educational, but a “moral recession!”

People say, “But God must be blessing America, look how prosperous we are. The Dow Jones is up and umemployment is down.”

Heed this warning, if there had been a Dow Jones in Sodom, it would have been up, too! Sodom was prosperous, just before the fire of God fell: Ezekiel 16:48-50: “As I live,” declares the Lord God, “Sodom, your sister and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it.” NASB

Now the bigger problem is – the moral meltdown that is now overtaking America has been met for the most part with a deafening silence from many of the pulpits of America and the people pleasing preachers who stand in them!

In many ways we have grown timid and afraid – “As long as it doesn’t bother me, I’ll turn my head.” The church and it’s ministers are guilty of standing silent and afraid while this country that we love is fighting a pitched battle for her very life, not against the military power of a foreign enemy, but against Ephesians 6:12 – “…the principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” NKJV

America desperately needs a true, spiritual revival to take place in our individual lives, our families’ lives, our churches, and our communities! People in our communities are dying, and many are dying lost! There are many in the church who are in desperate need of healing and times of refreshing!

Acts 3:19 – “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” NKJV

That is why the most urgent need in the church and in our world today is true, biblical, expository preaching: Hebrews 4:12“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” NKJV

Because of its power, the Word of God must be preached and taught from pulpits, in classrooms, and in homes.  It must be exposed from the pulpit as a constant stream of knowledge with practical applications. The Bible must be taught continuously, accurately, and passionately.

We must learn to let the “text do the talking.”  The church that does not do these things will not keep its candlestick for long (Revelation 2:5).

It has been said that preaching is the man of God opening the Word of God and expounding its truths so that the “voice” of God may be heard, the “glory” of God seen and the “will” of God obeyed.

Unfortunately, much of the preaching today seems out of balance, having become too much like what someone described as “a mild-mannered man standing before mild-mannered people urging them to be more mild-mannered.”

On a History Channel show that aired on 5 March 2008 entitled Hell: The Devil’s Domain – the narrator said that “by the 20th century, the ruler of hell was absent from the pulpit, and because of that he (Satan) enjoyed a rebirth in our culture.”

Brothers and sisters, preachers cannot be shy about preaching about hell or the devil or any other subject because most people alive today are going to hell: Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” NKJV

The world is in a deep spiritual sleep: Romans 13:11-12: “This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here…” NLT

That is why now is the time for the strongest men to preach the strongest message in the context of the strongest ministry and start telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – without fear of the consequences!

Preachers cannot become guilty of preaching 15 minute “Sermonettes for Christianettes.” 

God has told preachers to tell people what God says, not what people want: Ezekiel 3:10-11: “Moreover He said to me, ‘Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I shall speak to you, and listen closely.  And go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, ‘Thus says the Lord God.” NASB

God is not “politically correct,” and He is certainly not tolerant of sin: 2 Timothy 4:1-4: “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:  Preach the word!  Be ready in season and out of season.  Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” NKJV

“What does it mean to preach the Gospel in season and out of season? Well, in season-when they like it and out of season – when they don’t like it. With many folks, the Gospel is almost out of season today.” Marshall Keeble

As a preacher, I must preach like this is the last time I will ever preach, as “a dying man to dying men.”  I cannot be afraid of what people think who only have itching ears: Galatians 1:10 – “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” NLT

Philips Brooks, in his 1877 Yale Lectures on Preaching, said:  “If you are afraid of men and a slave to their opinion, go and do something else.  Go and make shoes to fit them.  Go even and paint pictures which you know are bad, but which suit their bad taste.  But do not keep on all your life preaching sermons which say not what God sent you to declare, but what they have you to say.  Be courageous.”  

Faithful preaching must identify and denounce the false gods of this world that call upon our people to bow before them every day, regardless of whose feelings get hurt.  God does not want us to avoid controversy by telling people what they want to hear.

God called us to proclaim His word, to be vigilant watchmen, to warn God’s people about the hosts of evil advancing all around us. We cannot play at preaching – we preach for eternity!

I’ve had people say to me, “You can win more people to Christ if you just soften your tone.  You can get more acceptance if you will just be more positive and not preach judgment. You can be more effective if you just tone down your preaching!”

You know what, the devil tells me that every day! One thing is for certain: “If Jesus had preached the same message that most preachers preach today, He never would’ve been crucified.”  Leonard Ravenhill

God did not call on Christians to tickle fancies and scratch ears with gentle words that condone arrogance and apathy toward His Word.  God called us to declare the truth!

“Preachers need to preach the Truth – bear down on it. We don’t need to make friends, we need to save souls.” ~ Marshall Keeble

Wouldn’t you rather have people thank you in heaven than hate you in hell for not telling them the truth?  “I would rather have thousands to say to me at the judgment, “We heard you preach, and you hurt our feelings,” than to have just one soul say “I heard you preach, but you did not tell me the truth!” John T. Lewis

You are at war. So am I. Every Christian is! Spiritual warfare is happening at this moment, whether you realize it or not. It is not a game – and it is not optional. It is “defeat, or be defeated!”

That’s why it is better to be divided by the truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills.  It is not love and it is not friendship if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God. It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie – it is better to stand alone with the truth like Amos did, than to be wrong with a multitude!

The Bible is full of warnings of things far worse than being dragged around with a hook in our lip (like the Assyrians did to the Jews) if we refuse to hear and obey – warnings of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, warnings of fire, smoke and brimstone, warnings of eternal punishment in a boiling lake of liquid fire.

Those warnings are true whether you’re talking about ancient Israel, the seven churches in Asia, modern nations or the local church today. Amos 4:12 “Therefore this is what I will do to you, Israel, and because I will do this to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God.” NIV 

There are still two ways we can prepare to meet God. We can either try to do it on our terms or His. But make no mistake about it; we’ll meet Him either way.  Are you ready?

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Be a People Builder

Jude 3 – “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” NKJV 

“Contending” means we must be faithful to the faith, to the Word of God, and we must pass the faith on to others, especially our children. If there ever was a generation that needed to contend for the faith, it is this generation, because we are just one generation away from paganism.  The greatest spiritual danger of this century is going to be all sorts of false doctrines that are going to condemn people to hell – forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, religion without the Holy Spirit, and heaven without hell.  If we don’t pass the true faith on to the next generation, they won’t have it.  Why do I say that?  Because now more than ever, people are taking this book and are shredding it, dissecting it, adding to it, taking away from it.

God said in Deuteronomy 12:32“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” NKJV

We need to pass the faith on and be faithful to the faith.  We must be good stewards of the faith of God – but what are we passing on?  It has been said that we lose half of our young people by 18.  Why?  What are we teaching them? I believe our biggest failing isn’t in the teaching of doctrine, but in the practice of our Christianity.  We tell them what God says, but we don’t always act the way God wants us to act.  We don’t always create an environment where they want to be.

Today, I want to remind you of four sinful actions that do nothing but damage and destroy relationships in the church.  These sins have made a huge, negative impact on the faith of our young people, and on many others, and they must be taught against and rooted out of the church.

At the end, I want to encourage you to be a people builder. Hebrews 3:13 – “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” NIV

 1) Our relationships

Once there were two shopkeepers who were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, so they spent each day keeping track of each other’s business.  If one got a customer, he would smile and wave in triumph at his rival.  One night an angel appeared to one shopkeeper in a dream and said, “I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much.  Do you want to be rich?  You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you want to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier.  What is your desire?” 

The man frowned, thought for a while, and then said, “Here is my request – strike me blind in one eye!”

The Bible is crystal clear on this – God wants His people to be united, to get along, to have and experience good, loving relationships with each other.  Psalm 133:1 – “How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” NLT

But, as you know, some people, even in the church, would rather strike somebody blind than love them and encourage them.  There is always somebody with a contentious spirit, a person who is likely to cause controversy, to argue, to fight, to quarrel, to be involved in a heated argument, to be divisive, to sow discord. There is always somebody who has the personality of a piece of sandpaper. There is always a troublemaker!

Proverbs 26:21 – “A quarrelsome person starts fights as easily as hot embers light charcoal or fire lights wood.” NLT

2 Corinthians 12:20 – “For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling (contentions), jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance, and disorderly behavior.” NLT

There is always somebody who wants to speak evil of someone else, who wants to gossip about their brothers and sisters, who wants to backbite and slander them, who wants to sit in judgment over them, who won’t forgive others!

God says we are not to speak evil against one another which includes using harsh, bitter, hateful, slanderous name-calling, backbiting, and/or gossiping!  He also commands us to stop the godless judging we are so often guilty of, and to always be ready to forgive those who have hurt us!

2)  Evil speaking

James 4:11 – “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren…”  NKJV

“The most dangerous weapon in the world is not a nuclear bomb, it is a wagging tongue!” 

In Psalm 64:3-4, David said that wicked people – “…sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their bitter words like arrows. They shoot from ambush at the innocent, attacking suddenly and fearlessly.” NLT

James 3:5-10: “In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches. But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” NLT

The words we use can bless or burn, hurt or heal. But instead of using words that help, sometimes we call people names, we treat them harshly, we gossip, we abuse them with our words, we divide families and sometimes churches because we are too proud to humble ourselves and submit to one another.

How harmful can words be? Extremely harmful – words can kill as surely as bullets.  Words can do emotional damage that will impact an entire life; words can split families and divide churches! The effects can be devastating. Proverbs 16:27 – “Scoundrels create trouble; their words are a destructive blaze.” NLT

Ephesians 4:29-32: “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  NLT

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 that “revilers” – people who use contemptuous abusive language, will not inherit the kingdom of God!

It was once said that “If you can’t say something good about a person, don’t say anything at all.”  Who said it?  Everybody’s grandma! 

1 Peter 3:10 – “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies.”  NLT

There are four words that can prevent so much of the tension and bitterness in our relationships: “I might be wrong!” 

Proverbs 12:18 – “Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing.” NLT

 3)  Godless judging

James 4:11 – “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”  NKJV

Matthew 7:1-2: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” NLT

If we want to get along with others, Jesus said that we must stop being “judgmental” (hypocritical judging, forming an ungodly opinion or a conclusion about others, condemning others when we are guilty of the same sin).

We all need to be constantly reminded of this, because there probably isn’t a 24 hour period that goes by without each of us violating Jesus’ command in Matthew 7:1.

Nothing destroys a relationship more quickly than a failure to obey this one command. Romans 14:10 – “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” NKJV

When we judge with an “ungodly judgment” – we show contempt, not love for our brother. To “show contempt” means that we despise, have no respect for, and/or think the person is worthless, that we are better than them – it is very closely related to hating:

1 John 3:15 – “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”  NKJV

One reason we should not speak evil of and judge one another is because of the regard we should have for one another. We are supposed to be “brothers and sisters.” We are supposed to fight “for” our Christian brothers and sisters, not “with” them!”

Philippians 1:27 – “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.” NLT

Romans 12:10 – “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” NLT

James 4:12 – “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” NKJV

Wham! Right between the eyes! With all my weaknesses, struggles, problems, and sins, who am I to talk about my brother!

Matthew 7:3-5: “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”  NLT

Someday we will all stand before the Lord and give an account for our lives. Romans 14:11-12: “For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” NKJV

In the end, this is the judgment that matters.  Imagine yourself before Jesus, and He is going to judge you the way you have judged others.  He is going to measure you by the standard by which you have measured others.  If you were judged this way, how would you fair?

James 2:13 – “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.”  NKJV

Unless you can walk on water, you don’t have the right to pass judgment on another person.”

In our relationships with others, we must remember that ultimately both we and they will stand before God, and it is God who will make the final judgments.  Let us therefore be merciful, kind and patient in our dealings with others.

4)  Backbiting

Matthew 18:15-17:If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.” NLT

Jesus said that if another believer sins against us, we are to go and tell him what he did wrong, in private, out of the public eye, between us and them alone!  This is not the most comfortable or the easiest thing to do, but it is to be our very first communication – “us and them alone!”

But that’s not what happens most of the time, instead we talk to everyone else about what happened instead of the person we have the problem with – when we do we become guilty of the sin of “backbiting!”

“Backbiting” is to slander somebody behind their back for the purpose of damaging their reputation.  It means to bite them in the back in an insulting way!

“Backbiting” is malicious talk about someone who is not present – spiteful talk, slander, libel, defamation, abuse, character assassination, mudslinging, badmouthing, etc.

If we have a problem and disagree and we do not go to the person first, if we slander another person’s reputation, we have sinned a great sin in the sight of God, and may have damaged the relationship beyond repair. And we’ll answer to God for it!

Proverbs 10:18 – “Hiding hatred makes you a liar; slandering others makes you a fool.”  NLT

Psalm 101:5 – “I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride.”  NLT

5)  Gossip

“Gossip” (casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people who aren’t present, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true), is a form of “evil-speak” or backbiting: Leviticus 19:16 – “Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people…”  NLT 

Proverbs 16:28 – “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.”  NLT

The world has elevated gossip to an art form – with “gossip columns” and even TV “gossip shows.” One TV program was called “Gossip Girl.”

Even in the church, when something bad happens, the news of what happened travels like wildfire.  Not only do people want to know the story; they also want to know all the sordid details.

We know that the devil delights in the fall of a man who is “supposed” to be a man of God, and the world does too.

But why is it that Christians also delight in knowing and telling something bad on each other when the Bible is crystal clear that Christian love “…does not rejoice in iniquity…” (1 Corinthians 13:6).  NKJV

Christians who gossip probably regard “gossip” as a little sin that is insignificant when compared with some others.  But is that the way God sees it?

Psalm 15:1-3: “Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends.”  NLT

The motto of the gossiper – “Never say anything unless it is good, and boy is this good.” A gossip loves to tell things, but they don’t care if their facts are correct or not. “I don’t start rumors, the people I tell them to start the rumors.”

People who gossip can’t stop saying “You’ll never believe what I just heard.”  One lady said she never told her secrets except to two kinds of people – those who asked her and those who didn’t!

“Gossiping is dreadfully catching; one dog will set a whole kennel howling.”

A gossip will say “I don’t know why people come to me and tell me these things.”  I do, it’s because they know you want to hear it.

We have a responsibility to make sure we don’t allow our ears to become someone’s personal trash cans! “Rumors are carried by haters, spread by fools, and accepted by idiots!”

The Bible warns us to not associate with those who habitually gossip: Proverbs 20:19 – “Gossips can’t keep secrets, so avoid people who talk too much.”  NCV

Remember, if someone will say something behind another’s back, they could do the same to you.  Old Spanish proverb“Anyone who will gossip TO you, will also gossip ABOUT you!” 

Will Rogers said, “The only time people dislike gossip is when you gossip about them.” It may be that we feel better about ourselves when we know something bad about somebody else.

Gossip is a deadly sin – one of the worst things you could ever do.  The deadly sin of gossip destroys the lives of people who are gossiped about.  It can hurt those involved for life.  If you are guilty of being a gossip, you need to repent and ask the person you are talking about for their forgiveness. Proverbs 26:20 – “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops.”  NLT

6)  People Builders

In all of our relationships, we should always strive to be a “people builder.”  What does that mean?  When you talk to other people or about other people, don’t say harmful things.  Say what people need, words that will help them become stronger.

Don’t be bitter and angry or mad.  Never shout angrily or say things to hurt others.  Be kind and loving to each other.  Forgive each other as God forgave you in Christ. There are times when we all need someone to come along and give us an encouraging word.  In the same way we should always be looking around us to see who we may inspire with our words. You never know how someone’s entire life can change through a simple – “You can do it. I believe in you.”

For many of us, we would not be where we are today if someone had not cheered us on and believed in us. Their simple encouragement impacted our lives forever.  Remember, you may be the only person someone else hears an encouraging word from, so never fail to give one.  Work to “build people up!”

7)  Let’s make the church

A new student was brought into a Vacation Bible School class an hour before dismissal.  The little boy was missing an arm, and the teacher was afraid that one of the children would comment on his handicap and embarrass him.  There was no opportunity to caution them, so she proceeded as carefully as possible.

As class came to a close, she began to relax.  She asked the class to join her in their usual closing ceremony.  “Let’s make our churches,” she said. 

“Here’s the church and here’s the steeple, open the doors and there’s…”  That’s when the awful truth of her own actions struck her.  The very thing she had feared the children would do, she had done.  As she stood there speechless, the little girl sitting next to the boy reached over with her left hand and placed it up to his right hand and said, “Here Davey, let’s make the church together.”

That’s what we all need to do – we need to put our inadequate, handicapped lives alongside the lives of others and pray, “Let’s make the church together.” 

Philippians 2:3-5: “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”  NLT

Conclusion

When all is said and done and we stand before God on Judgment Day, there may be some in this room who will be turned away – some of you are contentious and divisive and quarrelsome, some of you are filled with arrogant pride and not enough humility, some of you are eaten up with worldliness, greed, covetousness, and idolatry.

Some of you have hearts that are not right with God, hearts that are filled with lust, anger, hatred, jealousy, bitterness, and unforgiveness!

Some of you are not really committed to Christ; some of you are living in sin!  Some of you are guilty of godless judging, backbiting, evil speaking, and gossiping. Stop it, and stop looking around wondering who I am talking about…

1 Peter 4:7-8: “The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” NLT

Time and opportunity are running out!  If the ungodly do not change, it will at some point become too late.  The unprepared will remain unprepared for all of eternity – the prepared will live forever!

The only time we can be sure of is the present moment – today is the day of salvation, tomorrow may be too late.  “We need to obey the Lord, and we need to do it now!”

Revelation 22:20 – “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”

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The Cry of a Brokenhearted Man

2 Samuel 11 tells the story of David’s sin with Bathsheba. He did not go out to war as usual. While at home, he lusted after Bathsheba and then committed adultery with her. When Bathsheba became pregnant, David called her husband home in an attempt to get him to go into his wife so that he would think that the child was his. Uriah refused, so David got him drunk. But Uriah still wouldn’t go to her. David then sent him back to the battlefield with secret instructions to Joab, his military leader, to put him in a place where he would be killed. Evidently, David thought his despicable acts were not known – 2 Samuel 11:27 – “…But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” NKJV

2 Samuel 12:1-14: “Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’” So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” NKJV

Have you ever wondered what David was thinking while all this was going on and how he was feeling as the days went by when he thought his sin was unknown to others? David knew better – he knew that adultery, murder, lying, causing others to sin, and drunkenness were wrong.  How did David respond when his hard heart was broken when Nathan said, “You are the man?” The answer to this last question is found in David’s prayer for forgiveness in Psalm 51.

 1) A cry of repentance and restoration

ConfessionPsalm 51:1-2: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” NKJV

David’s prayer recognized the enormity of what he had done. He saw his sin not just as “a meaningful relationship,” “a weakness of the flesh,” or “an indiscretion.”

He used three terms to describe his sin! First, he called it “transgression” (v. 1), which means “to step deliberately over a property line, to trespass, to go beyond God’s will.” David admitted that he had gone where he should not have gone.

Second, he spoke of his sin as “iniquity” (v.2a). To commit iniquity is “to violate an established standard, to turn aside and follow one’s own way.” Adultery and murder were forbidden in the Ten Commandments. David could not claim that he was ignorant; he knew that his behavior was sinful when he did it.

Third, he spoke of his failure as “sin” (v. 2b). This word means “to miss the mark, to fall short of God’s standards.” It conveys the idea of shooting an arrow at a target and missing, or straying off a straight path like a wandering sheep.

David is saying, “I have been guilty of it all.” “Transgressions” in verse 1 is plural. Sin had multiplied – one sin had led to another sin. All these sins were on his heart. He says, “I need to have these blotted out!”

Psalm 51:2 – “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” NKJV

This means more than a dipping or soaking! The original language carried the idea of how a woman took the family’s dirty clothes to a river or creek. She would dip and soak them and then scrub, twist, beat, and pound them to get them clean. This illustrates that though our cleansing by God is perfect and complete, it may not be easy. David was forgiven, but he also suffered enormous personal consequences because of his sin.

Psalm 51:3 – “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” NKJV

David’s sin is ever before him, haunting him, tormenting him, torturing him. He realized he was a sinner, and he was willing to acknowledge his sin. He says, “…and my sin is always before me.” One paraphrase says, “It haunts me day and night.”

He is defeated and broken by his sin – he cannot escape it. His lies had colored his world black. His adultery had stained him. And he was guilty of the murder of another man. He tried to hide his sin, but that isn’t possible.

Proverbs 28:13 – “You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins. Confess them and give them up, then God will show mercy to you.” GNB

David’s confession was short, swift, and direct: 2 Samuel 12:13 – “Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin.” NLT

David makes no excuses for his sins. He does not make a vague confession, saying, If I have done anything wrong.” He does not call his sin a slip, a mistake in judgment, or a questionable action. He did not minimize his guilt or evade his responsibility. There is nothing superficial about David’s confession – he takes complete responsibility for what he did.

David went to God like a prodigal son returning to his father, with no excuses, just asking for mercy, willing to accept judgment – whatever it might be – as long as he could return to the fellowship with God he had once known. 

Psalm 51:4 – “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight – that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge.” NKJV

What are most people usually concerned about when they sin? “What if my friends find out? What if my parents find out? How will it affect this person or that?”

Think of what David did to Bathsheba; to Uriah the Hittite; to Joab, his commander-in-chief; to the people; to his own children. His sin affected people in every direction. There is no such thing as a victimless sin.

Unlike David, our first thoughts are not usually – “It makes no difference if anybody finds out or not. After all, God knows it. I have hurt God!”

What does David mean when he says his sin was only against God? Our sins may harm our friends, neighbors, and family, but we must understand that sin is first and foremost against God. Whether it affects anybody else or not, it always affects God! Sin always hurts the sinner and sin always hurts God.

CleansingPsalm 51:5 – “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” NKJV

Many explanations have been given for verse 5 to include the “doctrine of original sin.” Most likely David is making an emotional statement about how sinful he has been. He was not saying that he had inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin. David was figuratively speaking of the inclination we all have toward sin. He is saying that he was brought into a sinful world, and that he soon took up the practice.

Ezekiel 18:20“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”  NKJV

Jesus pointed out that a little baby is pure and holy: “…for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). A little baby is ready, just as he is, for heaven.

David did not believe that if that baby died without undergoing certain ceremonies, he would end up lost. No, he planned to see his little baby in heaven someday! 2 Samuel 12:23 – “But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” NKJV

Psalm 51:6 – “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.” NKJV

Dishonesty was a major problem with David in this episode. He had refused to see himself as a sinner or to admit that his actions were wrong. God wants us to be honest, especially with ourselves. So David prays for a sincere heart.

David is saying, “If I am going to be able to make any significant change, it must come from inside.”

David knew that unless the heart is broken, unless the heart recognizes that sin is against God, there can be no restoration.

Psalm 51:7 – “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” NKJV

The Hebrew word for “wash” is not the word used for simply washing your face, or rinsing a dish. It refers to the washing of clothes by beating and pounding them against a rock or a scrub board. David is praying for a thorough cleansing from sin. This word was used for cleaning a filthy, defiled garment when it was so bad it had to be sent to the “fuller.”

The fuller was a skilled specialist in cleaning exceptionally dirty clothing. He was called a fuller because he used a bleaching agent called “fuller’s earth.”

To put this in modern day terms, David is saying, “Bleach me! Wash me! Steam me! Clean me!”

“Hyssop” was a plant that was used in the Old Testament in certain ceremonial cleansings – when one had contact with the dead, when one was cleansed from leprosy, etc. But hyssop was not used for the sin of adultery or murder. David is saying, “God, even though there is no provision in the law for the use of hyssop for sins like mine, I know You can make me clean.” 

Psalm 51:8-10: “Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” NKJV

We sometimes think of sin as something insignificant, a small mistake, but sin is terrible! Sin destroys happiness, lives, and hope.

David’s sin brought disruption to his fellowship with God and he wants that fellowship back. His physical bones were not broken, but spiritually he was devastated. He is pleading for forgiveness, for a cleansing which will bring a removal of his guilt so that he can be happy again.

He wants God to wash away his sin and to turn away His face from it and blind Himself to it. He needs to be recreated, given a new heart. It is evident to David, however, that he must bring God an honest heart, a broken heart, and a contrite heart in order to get a “new heart.”

Psalm 51:11 – “Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” NKJV

When a person became a king over Israel, he received a special measure of God’s Spirit. God was with him in a special way. When David’s predecessor, Saul, turned against God, God removed His Spirit from him and Saul literally went crazy. David knows that the same thing can happen to him, and it scared him to death!

No true life can be enjoyed apart from the presence of God, and David knew it.  So he begs God to not take the Holy Spirit away from him.

Psalm 51:12 – “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” NKJV

David knew that the forgiveness of God and the presence of God would bring great joy into his life, which would lead to peace, praise, and preaching!

2) A cry of resolution

In the closing verses, David makes a “cry of resolution.” David is not simply thinking about the moment. He is not saying, “I just need to get my sins forgiven and all will be well.” He is resolving, with God’s help, to live a different kind of life. He is saying, “I am going to be the kind of person I should be.”

His first resolution is that he will tell others what God has done for him: Psalm 51:13 – “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” NKJV

David is saying, “If you will forgive me, God, my joy will overflow, and I will tell everyone about it. I will teach sinners Your ways. I have every confidence that, as a result of that teaching, those sinners will be converted.”

David’s second resolution is that he will again praise God: Psalm 51:14 – “Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.” NKJV

David is pleading for God to deliver him from the guilt of the murder he had committed, the blood that was on his hands. Remember, there was no sacrifice for the sin of murder. David could do nothing to remove that sin from his soul. God had to do it.

But, David says, “If you will deliver me from that guilt, God, I will sing of your righteousness!”

Psalm 51:15 – “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise.” NKJV

When sin is in our lives, when our conscience is tearing us apart, it is hard to sing as we should. It is hard to pray as we should. It is hard to open our hearts to God because we do not want God to see deeply into our sinful hearts, which will only grow harder the longer we put off repentance. But David says, “God, if You will forgive me, my lips will be loosed, and I will again sing praises unto You.”

Contrition – Psalm 51:16-17: “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart — these, O God, You will not despise.” NKJV

The only proper way to deal with the guilt of sin is to humble ourselves and become truly penitent – with a “contrite heart.”

To be “contrite” does not mean “feeling bad” about sin, but feeling crushed under the weight of guilt for what we have done. It means a genuine disgust of our sin as well as a determination to do differently.

David knew that sacrifices and burnt offerings would not atone for his sins of murder and adultery. He needed to repent.

There was once a man who wrote a letter to Revenue Canada saying, “I haven’t been able to sleep lately because when I filed my income tax I deliberately misrepresented my income. I am enclosing a check for $150.00, and if I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the rest.”

That’s not contrition. Contrition is a deep repentance that takes ownership of one’s sin; an ownership that leads to brokenness: Psalm 34:18 – “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” NLT

This does not mean that in Old Testament times God never desired sacrifices and burnt offerings (Leviticus). So what is David saying? First of all, as noted before, there were no sacrifices for David’s specific sins. But second (and most important), no sacrifice was worth anything without a broken heart behind it.

We need to realize how terrible sin is. Someone says, “But my sin is not like that of David’s. After all, David committed adultery and murder. I just have small sins. I gossip a little. I lie and cheat a little.” Sin is sin! All sin is against God!

Someone has said that white ants can pick a carcass clean faster than a lion. The “little sins” within us can destroy us just as quickly as David’s sins did him!

Is your heart broken and contrite because of your sin? We must understand outward actions and ceremonies won’t get it done. God seeks the heart first.

Isaiah 57:15 – “The high and lofty one who lives in eternity, the Holy One, says this: “I live in the high and holy place with those whose spirits are contrite and humble. I restore the crushed spirit of the humble and revive the courage of those with repentant hearts.” NLT

Confidence – David composed Psalm 18 to commemorate the power and works of God throughout his life and administration.

Psalm 18:20-22:  “The Lord rewarded me for doing right; He restored me because of my innocence. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; I have not turned from my God to follow evil. I have followed all his regulations; I have never abandoned his decrees.” NLT

Is David delusional? Has he deceived himself? No. And the proof is in 1 Kings 14:8 where in His rebuke to the evil king Jeroboam, the Lord says, “…But you have not been like my servant David, who obeyed my commands and followed me with all his heart and always did whatever I wanted.” NLT

David is known as the “…man after God’s own heart…” (1 Samuel 13:14), not because he was perfect, but because he always returned to the Lord in humility, because he was big enough to acknowledge his sin, big enough to turn from that sin, and big enough to stay with the Lord!

Though his guilt was removed, the consequences of David’s sin lingered on. But David did not quit. David had a relationship with God that was not affected by outward circumstances. No matter what happened, he stayed with God. Thus, in the New Testament, thousands of years later, David is still known as a man after Gods own heart:

Acts 13:22 – “And when He had removed him, He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’” NKJV

Psalm 51:18 – “Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem.” NKJV

Verse 18 reads like a request for God to bless Jerusalem, but I believe it contains a resolution on David’s part to be the kind of ruler he should be.

The purpose of walls was to provide protection. David’s actions had made Israel defenseless against her enemies. I believe David is pleading for Gods protection of Israel to be restored. David is praying that the harm he had done to his people would be undone! He realized that a nation is always affected by its leaders, a lesson that is taught throughout the Bible and illustrated throughout history. A leader’s bad judgment, a leader’s sins, have dragged nations into war and shame.

David had seen many people in the past killed and destroyed because of poor leadership. Now he says, “Don’t let that happen here! I have sinned. I know I have sinned. But still put your protection around your people!” David is coming to realize, perhaps more than ever before, the far-reaching effect of a single life.

Sometimes we think what we do is our own business, not realizing that not only are we affected, but our families, friends, and everybody who knows what we’ve done. If we could truly realize the power of influence and the effects our example is having on others, we would resolve to be better people as well.

Psalm 51:19 – “Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.” NKJV

In verse 19, David closes with this resolution: “God, if I’m forgiven, I resolve from this point forth not only to worship You, but also to always give You my very best!” May God help us to always give our very best!

3) Conclusion

Step by step, in covetousness, adultery, and murder, David had walked away from God. Only when he acknowledged his sin and the cause for that sin – his own selfishness – could he begin his journey back to the One who had loved and blessed him.

We too must recognize our sin for what it is, we too must understand how terrible our sin is, confess and repent of our selfishness, and give our lives to God if we want to get rid of the terrible guilt that can tear us apart and possess the joy of salvation.

We too must say along with David – “My sin is before me. My heart is broken. Help me, O God! I want to make things right!”

Joel 2:12-13: “That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.” NLT

What was the Lord’s response to the cry of this brokenhearted man? Did the Lord forgive David? Did he ever know the joy of salvation again? The short answer to that question is found in Nathan’s words: 2 Samuel 12:13 – “Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin.” NLT

The complete answer is found in Psalm 32:1-5: Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!  When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” NLT

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David and Bathsheba

2 Samuel 11:1 – “It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.” NKJV

Armies have for centuries kept their top generals and leaders safe in the rear ranks or, where short distances were involved, even at home. David was a warrior-king who ordinarily would be leading the charge in war, but this time he didn’t go! The Ammonite capital of Rabbah was less than 40 miles from Jerusalem. David could easily control the battle through reports brought to him from his trusted general Joab. Messengers could be sent out from him to alter strategy if necessary.

David’s place was with his army, but something was wrong. Perhaps he had become weary with battle; maybe he had grown a little “soft” surrounded by the wealth and comforts of the palace. We don’t know for certain, but what we do know is that David was at a place of low spiritual vitality. His heart had lost its edge; he was drifting from God.

People find it hard to understand that simply doing nothing is very dangerous to our spiritual lives. Relationships fall apart because we don’t work at them. A beautiful garden is destroyed by neglect; a house crumbles around you if you don’t maintain it. Many people die prematurely, not through any accident, but simply by neglecting their health; ignoring the warning signs and not making the necessary adjustments.

As Solomon put it in Proverbs 24:30-34: “One day I walked by the field of an old lazybones, and then passed the vineyard of a lout; they were overgrown with weeds, thick with thistles, all the fences broken down. I took a long look and pondered what I saw; the fields preached me a sermon and I listened: “A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there, sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next? Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life, with poverty as your permanent houseguest!” MSG

2 Samuel 11:2-5: “Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.” NKJV

David couldn’t sleep one evening so he gets out of bed and takes a stroll on the terrace. There’s no indication that David was “on the prowl,” but when your guard is down, the devil will set you up! Bathsheba, bathing that evening in the privacy of her own yard, did not count on being watched. But when the king summons her to his room, it’s safe to assume that she felt obligated to obey. It was common for kings to take whomever they wished, married or not, yet it was a clear violation of God’s law.

Days, if not weeks pass by. Then David receives news that Bathsheba is pregnant. David knows that the child is his, so he concocts what he thinks is a foolproof plan:

2 Samuel 11:6 – “Then David sent to Joab, saying, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David.” NKJV

It’s still early in the pregnancy, so he decides to order Bathsheba’s husband home from the battle field, hoping he will sleep with her and discover later that his wife is pregnant.

However, David underestimates Uriah: 2 Samuel 11:7-11: “When Uriah had come to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people were doing, and how the war prospered. And David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah departed from the king’s house, and a gift of food from the king followed him. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. So when they told David, saying, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Did you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?”  And Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” NKJV

Uriah was not a common soldier. He was one of David’s thirty valiant men, which is probably why his house was so close to the palace. Uriah had served David since the early days when David was a fugitive, running from Saul. He was a Hittite by birth (they had settled in Hebron before Abraham’s arrival) but his parents probably converted to Judaism since the name, “Uriah,” means “My light is the Lord.”

So David, trying to buy more time, tells Uriah to stick around for another day before returning to battle: 2 Samuel 11:12 – “Then David said to Uriah, “Wait here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next.” NKJV

The scheme? Get Uriah drunk and then tell him to go home to his wife. However, Uriah’s convictions are stronger than the alcohol and again he stays with the servants:

2 Samuel 11:13 – “Now when David called him, he ate and drank before him; and he made him drunk. And at evening he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.” NKJV

Now, at this point, the treachery begins to unfold. David prepares to do the unthinkable by removing Uriah out of the picture and taking Bathsheba as his wife, hoping he could still hide his sin:

2 Samuel 11:14-15: “In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.” NKJV

David was cold hearted to send this message to have Uriah killed – with Uriah.

2 Samuel 11:16-17: “So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men. Then the men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also.” NKJV

Uriah is sent to the front lines where the fighting is fiercest, and is killed.

Joab sends a veiled message to David to confirm the kill: 2 Samuel 11:18-24: “Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war, and charged the messenger, saying, “When you have finished telling the matters of the war to the king, if it happens that the king’s wrath rises, and he says to you: ‘Why did you approach so near to the city when you fought? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? Who struck Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Was it not a woman who cast a piece of a millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez? Why did you go near the wall?’—then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’” So the messenger went, and came and told David all that Joab had sent by him. And the messenger said to David, “Surely the men prevailed against us and came out to us in the field; then we drove them back as far as the entrance of the gate. The archers shot from the wall at your servants; and some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” NKJV

David’s response to Joab is quite telling: 2 Samuel 11:25 – “Then David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab: ‘Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another. Strengthen your attack against the city, and overthrow it.’ So encourage him.” NKJV

Joab, don’t feel badly about it, just keep fighting. But – 2 Samuel 11:26-27: “When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” NKJV

Did you ever hear of Edgar Allen Poe’s story, “The Telltale Heart?” The main character has committed murder and he buries the body of the victim in his basement, but he’s unable to escape the guilt of his crime.

He begins to hear the heartbeat of his dead victim. This goes on and on and on, the heartbeat growing louder and louder. Eventually, the man goes mad, but the pounding that he heard was not from the grave below but from within his own chest.

You get the feeling that’s how David felt. David had lived with his sin for almost a year, thinking no one knew about it.  But the guilt became unbearable – his conscience really bothered him:

Psalm 32:3-4: “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.”  NLT

It is a natural consequence of shame that we try to hide the deeds that we know are sinful, but it is a waste of time to try and hide anything from God.

Hebrews 4:13“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” NLT

When David tried to hide his sin, he was miserable.  His guilt was hurting him – his conscience was tearing him apart.  He suffered mental and bodily agony day and night – beaten down by his sin! His whole body was wasting away or falling apart from the heavy strain of the load of his guilt, and his spirit had been immersed in torment and sorrow.

In order to Get David’s attention, God chastened or disciplined David – hard: Psalm 6:1-7: “O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage. Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me? Return, O Lord, and rescue me. Save me because of your unfailing love. For the dead do not remember you. Who can praise you from the grave? I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears. My vision is blurred by grief; my eyes are worn out because of all my enemies.” NLT

Psalm 38:1-8: “O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage! Your arrows have struck deep, and your blows are crushing me. Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins. My guilt overwhelms me—it is a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and stink because of my foolish sins. I am bent over and racked with pain. All day long I walk around filled with grief. A raging fever burns within me, and my health is broken. I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart.”  NLT

When the time was right, God sent a prophet to David, because He loved him too much to let him go on like this, damaging himself and his kingdom.

2 Samuel 12:1-14: “Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’” So David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” NKJV

When David is confronted, he realized how ugly, detestable, and repulsive his deeds were, and he immediately acknowledges the terrible things he has done.

When he did, God forgave him – Psalm 32:1-5: Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!  When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” NLT

The life of David illustrates a comforting truth: God does not quickly or easily give up on His servants! He sent a great fish to His reluctant prophet, Jonah, to restore him to service. He used a rooster to remind Peter of his sin. In His providence, God also worked to reclaim and restore His servant David.

David sinned grievously – of the Ten Commandments, he broke the first one when he allowed his lust to become his god; he broke the tenth when he coveted Uriah’s wife; he broke the seventh when he committed adultery with Uriah’s wife; he broke the ninth when he lied to Uriah and the eighth when he plotted to steal Uriah’s wife; and finally he broke the sixth when he had Uriah killed so he could take his wife!

However, God knew that David’s heart was tender and open to God’s rebuke. God sent His servant Nathan to bring David back to his senses and to face the reality of his sin.

2 Samuel 12:13 – “Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin.” NLT

David was not a bad man who did some good things. He was not a good man who did some bad things. David was a real, honest to goodness human being who more often than not was a real mess.  But David loved God. David sought God. He honored God’s Word. When confronted with his sin, he confessed.

We may at times look at our own lives and honestly say that God has a real mess on His hands with us. David’s life shows us that this is not a problem for God – when we make the choice to be humble about who we are, and to rely on the grace and goodness of God to see us through, God forgives, makes us clean, makes us whiter than snow.

All of us are sinners – just like David! Deep within, we know that we have sinned.  What can we do with our sin?  We can deny it.  We can tell ourselves that we are not sinners.  But denial never erases the fact of sin; it only complicates its existence.

We can ignore it, look the other way and pretend it didn’t happen, we can act like our sin is unimportant.  We can stay busy, thinking that our sin problem will go away.

We can try and hide it, we can blame it on somebody else, we can try to sweep it under the rug and remove it from our view:

Proverbs 28:13 – “You will never succeed in life if you try to hide your sins. Confess them and give them up, then God will show mercy to you.” GNB

Psalm 66:18 – “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” NLT

Or we can confess it, acknowledge it to God and let Him cover it with His grace, like David did!

Psalm 32:5 – “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” NLT

There’s something about sin that’s chaotic, that messes us up deeply inside. The guilt and burden of sin can become unbearable and even cause us physical pain. The memory of past sins can haunt us and make our lives miserable.

But there is something about confession, about lining ourselves up with the truth of God’s word, about repenting and turning away from sinful actions and attitudes that straightens us out.

Acts 3:19 – “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” NKJV

1 John 1:9-10: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” NKJV

I beg you – open your heart to God like David did with honesty – no deceit, sham or make-believe.  Repent of your sins, turn from the evil of your life.  If you do not forsake your sin, you cannot and will not be forgiven.  Acknowledge your sin, confess it before God, and see it as God sees it.  Bring it out in the open before Him, and renounce it.  Then accept God’s forgiveness.

Psalm 86:5 – “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.” NLT

Joel 2:12-13: “That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish.” NLT

Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” NKJV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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